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."