The Parent/Educator Collaborative (PEC) held a community forum via Zoom allowing Newton educators to discuss how the underfunding of Newton Public Schools (NPS) has impacted student learning and safety. The Jan. 29 forum also addressed understaffing, insufficient resources, higher-needs students, and a post COVID-19 educational environment.
Alison Lobron, founder of PEC, says she wants to help people understand educators’ perspectives.
“I’ve been working with educators for about the last three years to try and elevate the voices of teachers and make sure that we in the community who are not in the schools every day, have an understanding of what it’s like in the schools right now,” Lobron said.
Lobron explained that a lack of funding and resources are part of why teachers are having such a difficult time educating to their full potential, especially when it comes to students with greater needs in the classroom.
Allison Hitchings, a fifth grade teacher from Franklin Elementary School, explained that understaffing forces special education teachers and the regular support staff to be responsible for more students than they can handle.
“If those [special educators] are out, there really aren’t any building-based resources to really provide them the level of support that they need during the day.” Hitchings said. “So there is one or two of them [support staff] present every day to cover a wide range of issues, including classroom teachers, specialists like music and PE teachers, and then also the specialist staff, who are working with our high-needs students.”
Hitchings said the lack of additional resources often require special education teachers to leave their services for the day to cover a higher-needs student.
“We have students with different profiles and we’re needing to cover students with high behavioral needs and safety needs first,” Hitchings said. “Sometimes students who don’t have that level of support are then losing their coverage so that somebody else can go work with a student who has higher safety needs.”
Jen Terrazzino, a teacher from Countryside Elementary School, explained that many of the issues surrounding safety and support within NPS are a direct result of a lack of resources, particularly after the pandemic.
“We’re finding in research since the pandemic, students’ brains are actually developing differently than ever before,” Terrazzino said. “And so again, it’s not it’s not the fault of anyone, especially not the students, but they need more and so we know better, so we need to do better, essentially.”
The new reality of education means playing catch-up with students who are suffering the consequences of online learning and the pandemic, according to Lobron.
“A lot of these kids especially even, you know, our fourth fifth graders, they missed a lot of those early years in elementary school where they learn a lot of these, you know, social-emotional skills,” Lobron said. “It’s also not something that’s just gonna stop, you know, a few years after the pandemic is over.”
With the recent Newton Teachers Association strike, issues concerning education within Newton are receiving more attention, according to Lobron
“In the voices of the teachers who spoke tonight was a deep desire to do well by their students, a deep desire to be the best educator that they can be, working within confines that are not conducive,” Lobron said. “I hope that we can continue hearing from educators … in order for all of our students to receive the best education that they can.”