Letter to the Editor: Swampscott teachers state their case

My name is Nancy Hanlon. I am a speech/language pathologist at Stanley School and president of the Swampscott Education Association. I am also a resident of the town of Swampscott. 

I would like to thank Superintendent Pam Angelakis and School Committee members Gargi Cooper, Amy O’Connor, Ted Delano, Suzanne Wright and Carin Marshall for their continued service, dedication, and efforts on behalf of the students in our community. We, the educators of Swampscott, share your commitment to this nationally-recognized blue ribbon school system. 

I would like to express my personal frustration, as well as the frustration of the Swampscott Education Association, regarding our overall progress, or lack thereof, towards arriving at a mutually-acceptable contract. 

Swampscott educators deserve a fair contract. We, the teachers, go above and beyond to make sure that Swampscott students receive a “blue ribbon education” every time we walk into our classrooms. Over the past 15 years, our district has gone through incredible administrative turnover at all levels. 

Specifically, this community has had seven superintendents, 10 high school principals, five middle school principals, and four to five different principals at each of the elementary schools. 

Although all school systems experience turnover due to retirements or professional advancement, turnover at this level has not always been the case here in Swampscott. Despite this instability at the administrative level, teachers have been the constant presence for the students in our district. 

In that same time frame, 69 teachers have served the community of Swampscott for more than 15 years, including six teachers who have dedicated more than 30 years to our system. These seasoned teachers have welcomed and mentored new educators to our community, as well as shepherded a generation of students from pre-kindergarten through their graduation day from Swampscott High School. We do this because this is what we do, and what we do best.

Comparable districts throughout Massachusetts have acknowledged their educators’ efforts by providing fair and equitable contracts. Although, we do not question the town of Swampscott’s appreciation and respect for our efforts in the classroom and in the broader community, we do not understand why this is not reflected during our contract negotiations. It is not unreasonable to expect us to negotiate a fair contract providing for an annual cost-of-living increase, just like other comparable districts. 

No school system in the area has agreed to zero percent increases, and neither will we. Your children, our children, have had a wonderful start to this new school year. Teachers across the district are enthusiastic, engaged, and hopeful for positive outcomes for all of our students. 

Despite having an expired contract, 221 educators continue to enthusiastically show up to work each morning to greet students. But it is disingenuous to disregard the very real concerns and  tensions that we experience as we continue to work under an expired document, with zero percent increases over three years on the table. Such a contract will never be endorsed by this president and would never be ratified by our members. We don’t expect to be treated better than other districts, but instead in parallel and fairly. 

We are hopeful that respectfully articulating this reality will serve as an opportunity to recalibrate the starting point for our upcoming bargaining sessions. We are confident that our mutual commitment to the children of the town of Swampscott will trigger a positive and productive dialogue at the bargaining table. 

Nancy Hanlon is the president of the Swampscott Education Association.

Editor’s note: In a joint statement published on Sept. 14 in The Daily Item, Swampscott School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis and School Committee member Amy O’Connor said, “The union leadership’s claim of no raises is untrue, as most teachers will continue to earn increases under the existing contract, many teachers even earning multiple increases.” 

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