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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."

karen July 31, 2012 at 01:14 PM
I would like to thank the School Committee members, Mayor Sullivan and Dr. Kurzberg for voting to approve an additional teacher for Grade 3 at Highlands. Also, I would like to thank them for waiting to vote on the administrative assistant, in hopes that money will be available to fund an additional 4th grade teacher as well. Keeping our classroom sizes down is essential for the success of our children especially in the elementary grades. We thank you for allowing us to speak on behalf of our children and for taking the time to listen to our concerns. We realize there are difficult decisions that must be made within the town due to budget constraints. We are grateful for the appointment of one teacher and are still hopeful that a 2nd will be approved as well. Thank you!
Kathleen DeWitt July 31, 2012 at 01:19 PM
So glad the committee chose teachers over an administrative position. Not that that position shouldn't be funded, but not over a position to educate our children . Now if more money is found I hope they look at that position. Youdon't want it to be us against them, you just want the priorities in order. Nice job school committee. Nanakate.
DONNY3666 July 31, 2012 at 03:46 PM
This could be a mistake.
BtreeMary July 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Wasn't Morrison School listed in the last article as having larger class sizes than Highlands?? What happened to them? Was it just that Highlands had parents show up? How is that fair?
karen July 31, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Morrison's class sizes are smaller than Highlands, although with 24 in each of their Grade 5 classes that is still high. Highlands has 25 & 26 in both grades 3 and 4.
Joseph Markman (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Just for clarification, according to the latest enrollment projections, Morrison would have 23, 24 and 24 at 4th grade and 24, 24 and 24 at fifth grade. Highlands would have had 26, 25 and 25 at 3rd and 25, 25 and 24 at 4th.
BtreeMary July 31, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Well, the numbers are still close. Wouldn't it also be nice to put that money towards renovations/improvements so that small group teachers aren't teaching students in hallways, or closets. I have heard from many students and parents that this is happening!
JennyB July 31, 2012 at 05:08 PM
My daughter is in the 5th grade class at Morrison. That grade has had a 4th teacher travel up with them each year since 1st grade. I would hate to see that not continue her last year at Morrison. I know that they always have at least 7-8 students per grade that are also included from a special education classroom for most of the day. I know in my daughter’s class last year she had 27 students total.
c July 31, 2012 at 05:35 PM
do your numbers for Morrison include the developmental students who are in their class rooms as well?
Joseph Markman (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 06:07 PM
C – I'm checking on that now. I'll post here as soon as I confirm.
Joseph Markman (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Dr. Kurzberg just confirmed that developmentally disabled students are not included in the most recent class size projections.
Dawn Durant July 31, 2012 at 09:29 PM
The Morrison parents were trusting on the transparency and equality the school committee would use in allocating these new funds when hiring teachers. As the need at Morrison is equal to Flaherty and equal to or greater than Morrison (the average 5th grade class will be about 28 based on last year's 4th grade numbers and about 5 developmental students) we trusted and still do that the money would be given to the school's where the need is the greatest not where the wheel is the squeakiest.
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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