Note: This op/ed was originally published in Central High School’s student newspaper, The Little Green, on September 28, 2018.
Those of you who know me personally may know that I am extremely passionate about politics and am a strong advocate for civic engagement. Having cast my first vote in the primary elections on September 11, I am thrilled to finally have my voice heard in the voting process, and it is a dream of mine to have all young people excited about and involved in politics. As a high schooler you may think that you can sit back and let the adults handle things, but I can tell you from personal experience that your 18th birthday is approaching faster than you think. It is imperative that we pay attention to politics now so that we can hold our lawmakers accountable in the future.
Many of the policy issues up for debate in the current election season in Manchester, including jobs, crime, and property values, have solutions rooted in our public schools. Manchester Proud, an organization currently working on solutions to improve Manchester’s public schools, states that, “In an increasingly competitive world, our public schools are the key to Manchester’s future success.” Communities with great public schools attract more companies which bring more jobs, are safer, and have higher property value. When considering the effects of the quality of a city’s public schools it seems straightforward that schools are a worthy investment, so why is it that Manchester’s school board and board of aldermen seem to not think so?
While the school board has accepted the mission of Manchester Proud, they continue to stall negotiations for the renewal of teacher contracts. Every three years, teachers contracts are renewed and new negotiations take place. These negotiations have historically been stalled, as the school board has repeatedly refused to meet Manchester teachers’ contract proposals that would give teachers fair compensation. Not only is this blatant disrespect and disregard for the quality of Manchester’s teachers, but it has also caused the district to lose excellent new teachers who receive better compensation in other districts.
Teachers have very little leverage in trying to push through negotiations, but they have turned to a strategy called “work to rule,” which means that they are working to the letter of their contracts. In order to do their jobs well, most if not all teachers do work outside of what is required by their contracts including correcting at home, writing recommendation letters, advising clubs, buying supplies for their classrooms, and chaperoning school dances. Manchester teachers take great pride in their jobs, and are more than willing to work outside of their contracts because, as stated by an anonymous Central High School teacher, “Teaching is a calling, not a profession.”
The goal of the work-to-rule strategy is to draw attention to teachers’ dedication to their jobs. You may have noticed your teachers wearing red on Mondays, and you have probably complained at least once so far this year about how some school activities are not happening as usual whether that be the math team or the Homecoming dance.
I urge you to keep complaining, but be productive in doing so. Call your school board representative or attend a school board meeting and let them know how you feel. Share your personal experiences about times when Manchester’s teachers have gone above and beyond to help you succeed. As students, we all share in our teachers’ burden during these stalled contract negotiations, so we should also take part in making sure that our teachers receive the recognition and compensation that they deserve.
Rachel Phelan is a senior at Manchester Central High School. She is the Formatting Editor of The Little Green Newspaper and the Vice President of Central’s chapter of the National Honor Society.