Hartford Board of Education proposal not sitting well with teachers

HARTFORD — A Hartford Board of Education proposal is not sitting well with teachers, many of whom say it is a slap in the face.

The proposal would freeze pay, reduce sick days and change health care coverage. The school board also suggested eliminating higher pay for workers with a master’s degree and that layoffs be determined by evaluation rather than seniority.

“Honoring teachers elevates students! Honoring teachers elevates students,” teachers chanted Tuesday night at the Board of Education, where the school superintendent held a closed-door meeting.

“I have a moral obligation to stay in this district, but I’m constantly feeling mistreated,” said Melissa Yennie St. Juste, who graduated from Hartford Public Schools and now works as a physical education teacher.

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez writes in a statement:

“Hartford Public Schools has been committed every step of the way to maintaining the integrity of the negotiation process with respect to the teachers’ contract. From the outset, the District has held the fidelity of this process in the highest regard and has continuously negotiated in good faith. We have not and will not engage in discussion that could unintentionally derail our ongoing productive conversations. While it is unfortunate that information has been reported that is not fully representative of those conversations, we remain committed to the best interests of our District, our employees, and most importantly, our students. It is this commitment that has driven and continues to drive the District’s ongoing good faith engagement with the union toward the goal of coming to an amicable resolution.”

“As much as I do not want to leave Hartford, I feel like as a young teacher, I’m being pushed out,” said Victoria Hernandez, a fourth-grade teacher at Sanchez School.

Before this proposal, Hernandez was already struggling to pay her mortgage, student loans and buy supplies for her classroom.

“It’s gonna be more and more difficult to do things I was really excited to do,” she said.

“It’s causing stress,” said Carol Gale, a social studies teacher who has been with the district for nearly three decades. “The more stressed teachers are stressed, who loses? Ultimately, the kids lose.”

John Tusch, a high school English and computer science teacher, works a second job to fund his primary one.

“Over the last three years, I’ve spent over $10,000 in school supplies,” said Tusch. “It’s a pretty rough gig.”

Many teachers describe a dedication to the city of Hartford, especially to its youth. This includes Tiffany Moyer-Washington, an English teacher with four children who attend school in the district.

I am committed to our city,” said Moyer-Washington. “But I’m probably gonna need to get a second job.”

“We are being disrespected and our profession is being disrespected,” she added.

The Hartford Board of Education meets again on January 15, and this time the public is welcome.

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