The Brookline School Committee (BSC) met virtually via Zoom on January 6 at 6:15 p.m. to spotlight successful student groups and open a public commentary session to hear community voices.
Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory presented the Baker School Student Initiative for Menstrual Products (BSIMP) with the Spotlight of Excellence Award for providing feminine products in all bathrooms at Baker School and advocating for widespread change in the whole district.
Kate Ferguson, a seventh-grade student and BSIMP member, said everyone on the Initiative is looking forward to achieving the organization’s end goals.
“I’m extremely proud to be a part of the process and I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to talk about it tonight. As for the final stages, the district will be distributing menstrual products of all types of fits and sizes at Brookline Public Schools,” Ferguson said.
Guillory also presented the men’s varsity football team with the Spotlight on Excellence Award for their Division 1 All-State Championship. Head Coach Kyle Beaulieu-Jones said the team’s hard work and sense of community paid off when it mattered.
“It really speaks to the trust that each of the players has in each other and in themselves individually. It represents the preparation they have put in place over the summer, throughout the season and which really push each other,” Beaulieu-Jones said.
BSC Student Representative Claire Gallion introduced Junior Azavia Barksy-Elnour, who read a speech and provided a to present BSC members on how the district should continue to rethink its diversity and equity efforts.
“One of the most common attempts to combat these discriminatory biases is to organize anti-racism trainings, which, while helpful, often only scratch the surface. I want to recommend something different though,” said Barksy-Elnour: “We need a diverse teaching faculty at Brookline. It is difficult to overstate the political, educational and personal importance of black teachers.”
Special Education Coordinator Lindsay Linton is a single mother raising three children living in Brookline. Linton said diversity in the district needs to change so students don’t have to advocate for change all the time.
“At the end of the day, I don’t want my seventh grader to have to wait until first so I can talk to her teacher or a teacher to figure out who she is and what she needs,” Linton said. “My students now find it difficult to talk to their teachers because sometimes they feel like they don’t understand them.”
Linton said for Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) students and students of color, the district needs more diverse educators to better understand their students’ experiences and perspectives.
“may not go to bed at a normal time because at the end of the day they may not be home at a normal time because of all the commuting they have to do. We need educators who understand this,” Linton said.
In response to failed contract negotiations with the BSC, the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) recently launched a work-to-rule policy across the district. This policy encourages all BEU members to arrive and depart during direct school hours and not to arrive early or stay late at school.
During the public comment period of the meeting, many BEU members called for action, including BEU President Jessica Wender-Shubow. Wender-Shubow said the salaries teachers currently receive in the city are unsustainable given the rising cost of living.
“I’m at the top of the pay scale and I can’t pay rent independently. I live every month, very concerned about dramatically rising costs for rent, groceries and gas. J working a second job Monday through Thursday, 3:30 to 7:00 p.m., so I can pay for my expenses and pay for college for my two boys. It’s not sustainable,” Wender-Shubow said. “Is that how we’re dealing with a committed educator in a high performing district?It’s time to pay for the education Brookline is receiving.
Ending the public comment session, high school librarian Ann Collins said there would be no progress on the bargaining table unless research is done and efforts are made to increase the transparency of the part of the BSC and the BEU.
“What is the budgetary process that you follow to ensure that there is enough money available to negotiate in good faith with the teachers’ union? Is this process transparent? What percentage of the city budget is spent on schools? Have you looked at allocations in comparable communities? Collins said. “Where and what are the stumbling blocks to a smoother systemic outcome that supports our teachers in their work to maintain the reputation of Brookline Public Schools? We cannot do this without your support.