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Highlands, Flaherty Teachers Approved With Braintree High Housemaster, ELL Educator

The Braintree School Committee also approved a number of other items and heard a report on the substance abuse survey. Look on Patch for those stories as well.

Two elementary school teachers at and will be hired to help alleviate class sizes at the fifth and third grade levels – late-summer hirings that accompany the School Committee's decision on Monday night to replace a retired housemaster and fill an English Languge Learner position.

Funding for an administrative assistant for the third housemaster was tabled until the committee's next meeting on Aug. 20 on the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg, a move welcomed by some parents in attendance on Monday because it means a fourth grade Highlands teacher may be hired by September as well.

But despite that compromise – the committee will allocate an extra $40,000 in savings from an unexpected retirement on top of $237,000 in – several Braintree parents expressed their frustration with the committee over what they perceived as school officials valuing administrative help over teachers.

"We're in a bad situation. We have to make bad choices," said Highlands parent Sheelagh Corcoran.

Corcoran said her school's PTO has set aside $10,000 to cover construction costs that would be required to free space for one or two additional educators. She and other parents said that they did not necessarily object to filling the housemaster post, but that setting aside the adminstrative assistant would go a ways to helping improve class sizes of 24, 25 and 26 in third and fourth grade at Highlands.

"Don't vote a secretary over a teacher," Corcoran said.

Flaherty's fifth grade classes were projected at 27, 27 and 28 prior to the additional teacher.

Dr. Kurzberg and School Committee members pushed back against the idea that filling the housemaster vacancy and/or the adminstrative assistant slot meant they valued teachers any less.

"We as a committee sit here for the whole district," Chair Shannon Hume said. "We would like to give all schools new teachers every single year."

The current housemasters – Nancy Moynihan and Andrew Delery – along with incoming BHS Headmaster James Lee described for parents what housemasters do on a daily basis, though committee members argued that the discussion should not center itself around the importance of one position over another.

"We don't want Braintree versus Braintree," David Ringius said. "We don't want school versus school."

Mayor Joseph Sullivan stressed that for the current fiscal year was the largest in a decade and that with these new staff positions, Braintree will have added 22 or 23 educators this year.

"Braintree has a double-edged sword here," Highlands Principal Nancy Pelletier. The town does a good job educating its students, she said, and so families are "knocking down our doors" to move to Braintree. 

The administration will spend August both filling the approved positions and also looking for savings in the hirings so that both the administrative assistant and another Highlands teacher can be funded, Dr. Kurzberg said.

Comparing the two positions is like comparing "apples to oranges," the superintendent said. "I still think there is time for needs to be addressed... prior to the opening of school."

Dawn Durant July 31, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Sorry that should have said equal to or greater than Highlands
Kelly July 31, 2012 at 10:11 PM
WOW! Is this a typo ??? "Corcoran said her school's PTO has set aside $10,000 to cover construction costs" What kind of a budget does the highlands PTO have??
Kelly July 31, 2012 at 10:20 PM
The money should be spent on teachers' salaries --not on a secretarial position. Our schools are overcrowded and many of the schools have made make shift classrooms out of media centers and art rooms. 25 children or more is not acceptable! The Hollis PTO has parents volunteer in the office once a week to help put together memos and other notices - perhaps other PTO should do the same so there won't be a need to hire a secretary!!!
Jian Wang August 01, 2012 at 12:50 AM
As a Highlands parent, I was so happy that yesterday night the School Committee approved to hiring an additional 3rd grade teacher for Highlands, though we still need funds to hire one more 4th grade teacher. Under the limited budget, it was not an easy decision to vote for hiring teachers. My deep appreciation goes to all the members in the School Committee and the Town for the priority choice for our kids. We also own many thanks to Karen and Sheelagh who brought up this issue to the School Education Committee on behalf of the Highlands parents. I understood that the High School Housemaster is a critical position. But I wasn't so convinced how many are needed. Currently we have 3 housemasters, one will be retired by the end of this year. Let's assume that we already have two senior housemasters with advanced education background and experience, can we just hire a junior person as an assistant housemaster, so that all the jobs still can be done efficiently??? Looked in the near future all the Braintree Elementary schools will have the class size issue, hope the School Committee and our Town will need to come up with some visionary strategies to deal with this problem ultimately. Thanks.
Kathleen DeWitt August 01, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The Highlands School has a very hard working PTO, not to say the other schools don't. They run very aggressive fundraisers during the year, and put the $ where it affects the students the most. Obviously they budgeted very well this year and put aside that $ for construction in case they needed to add a Modular classroom for the over flow of students. Well done for their PTO officers. Nanakate

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