Watertown’s Superintendent of Schools joined school leaders from around the region who are urging Gov. Charlie Baker to move educators to a higher priority in Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Currently, the Watertown Public Schools are operating with a hybrid learning model, where students are split into two cohorts and alternate days they attend school in-person. Some have also chosen to go all remote.
At the Jan. 26 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Dede Galdston said that a survey found that parents and teachers would like to see increased in-person learning, but she said under current restrictions that would be difficult. She mentioned that vaccination of teachers and staff could help the move toward bringing more students back into school.
The Town’s COVID-19 rate is also something that is considered when making decisions about whether to increase the amount of in-person learning for students, Galdston told the School Commmittee. The latest COVID-19 numbers in Watertown show the number of cases over the past 14 days has dropped by 60 to 235, according to the numbers released by the Mass. Department of Public Health. The total case count is 1,779, up 78 from the previous week. The week before the increase was nearly twice that large.
The superintendents group sent out the following announcement:
The Tri-County Superintendents’ Roundtable, a unified group of 41 administrators joined by 24 union presidents of their respective districts, is urging Gov. Charlie Baker to reprioritize educators to make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in the earlier part of Phase Two.
The administrators issued a letter to Gov. Baker Monday outlining the basis of their request. Phase One of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Timeline began in December 2020 and continued through January. All groups in Phase One became eligible to receive the vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 21.
On Monday, Jan. 25, the state announced that it had restructured Phase Two of the vaccination distribution plan, which now prioritizes individuals age 75 and older as the first group to receive the vaccine. Through the adjusted plan, educators are in the third group to become eligible for the vaccine through Phase Two, which will begin in February and continues into March. To view details regarding the state’s current vaccination distribution plan, click here.
In their letter, administrators cited the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize the health and wellbeing of educators and the importance of bringing students back for in-person learning. The letter also noted the decisions of New York, Connecticut and Maine, which have classified educators in the first phase of a vaccination timeline.
Below is the letter in full:
February 1, 2021
Dear Governor Baker,
We, the Tri County Superintendents’ Roundtable, write to you as a unified group of 41 administrators, joined in this effort by 24 of the union presidents in our respective districts, to respectfully request that you reclassify educators and make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in the earlier part of Phase 2.
We cite the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging you to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our educators so that Massachusetts school districts can operate at the fullest possible strength as our nation begins to emerge from this global pandemic.
In making our request, we cite the following:
- We, as educators and leaders, recognize and agree that the best place for learning for our children is in the classroom.
- Your office and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have drawn from the guidance and wisdom of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which strongly advocates for students to return to, at a minimum, an in-person hybrid learning model. AAP further advocates that students should fully return to the classrooms where and when possible.
- We have a unique and profound responsibility to support the educational, emotional, physical, and mental well-being of the children across the Commonwealth.
- First responders, healthcare workers, and educators share a commonality in their day-to-day work in that they must come into contact with dozens or hundreds of people on a daily basis and often cannot be completely socially distant from those they serve.
- The stress and anxiety placed on educators as they continue to put themselves in this position without the protection of an existing vaccination is unfair and is not in the best interests of advancing public education in the Commonwealth.
- Beyond the teachers, themselves, there is a very real risk that an educator could expose their own families after contracting COVID-19 in the performance of their duties.
- In order to perform our jobs at the level desired by your office, DESE, and the AAP, the professionals in our field should be vaccinated as quickly as possible so they can continue to work with the children they come into contact with daily.
- The CDC’s guidance focuses on “Preservation of Societal Functions” under which health care personnel, frontline essential workers, and other essential workers are identified for Phase I vaccination. We state, without reservation, that access to public education and access to school facilities is a societal function.
We believe it is inarguable that educators are front line workers. Given the societal need for In-person public school — not just public school via Zoom — and the expectations set by your office and DESE, educators should be vaccinated immediately and without delay so that they can perform their duties safely and securely and without fear for their own lives and the lives of their own families by simply coming to work.
No educator should be asked to choose between their biological children and their school children.
While we understand that there is not an inexhaustible supply of vaccines, we believe the vaccination of educators should be a priority and is deserving of earlier Phase 2 status. We also call your attention to other states of similar educational expectations including New York, Connecticut, Maine that have classified educators in the first phase of vaccination.
As always, thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented time, and thank you for your consideration.
Medway Public Schools – Armand Pires, Ph.D. (Superintendent) & Megan Morrison (Medway Federation of Teachers President)
Medfield Public Schools – Jeffrey Marsden, Ed.D (Superintendent) ACCEPT Education Collaborative – Dr. Donna Flaherty (Executive Director)
Acton Boxborough Reg. School District – Peter Light (Superintendent) & Michael Balulescu (Acton Boxborough Education Assoc. President)
Ashland Public Schools – James Adams (Superintendent) & Michelle Smith (Ashland Educational Services Union President)
Belmont Public Schools – John Phelan (Superintendent) & John Sullivan (Belmont Educators Association President)
Bellingham Public Schools – Peter Marano (Superintendent)
Concord-Carlisle School District – Dr. Laurie Hunter (Superintendent) & Kate Squire (President Concord Teachers Association)
Carlisle Public Schools – James O’Shea (Superintendent) & Linda Vanaria (Carlisle Teachers Association President)
Dedham Public Schools – Michael Welch (Superintendent) & Timothy J. Dwyer (Dedham Educators Association President)
Hopkinton Public Schools – Carol Cavanaugh, Ph.D. (Superintendent)
Dover Sherborn Regional Schools – Andrew Keough (Superintendent) & Laura McGovern (Dover Sherborn Educators’ Association President)
Framingham Public Schools – Dr. Robert Tremblay (Superintendent) & Christine Mulroney (Framingham Teachers Association President)
Holliston Public Schools – Dr. Susan Kustka (Superintendent)
Hopedale Public Schools – Karen Crebase (Superintendent) & Lisa Bertonazzi (Hopedale Educators Association President)
Hudson Public Schools – Marco Rodrigues, Ed.D. (Superintendent)
King Philip Reg. School District – Paul Zinni (Superintendent) & Christina Logan (King Philip Teachers Association Vice President)
Maynard Public Schools – Brian Haas (Superintendent)
Norfolk County Agricultural High School – Dr. Tammy Quinn (Superintendent)
Norfolk Public Schools – Ingrid Allardi, Ph.D. (Superintendent) & Thomas Cavanaugh (Norfolk Teachers Association President)
South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical School District – Jonathan Evans & Phillip Rosano (Keefe Tech Educators Association President)
Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical School District – Stephen Dockray (Superintendent)
Franklin Public Schools – Dr. Sara E. Ahern (Superintendent) & Donna Grady (Franklin Educators Association President)
Lincoln Public Schools – Rebecca McFall, Ed.D. (Superintendent)
Mendon-Upton Reg. School District – Joseph P. Maruszczak, Ed.D. (Superintendent)
Millis Public Schools – Robert Mullaney (Superintendent)
Natick Public Schools – Anna Nolin, Ed.D (Superintendent)
Needham Public Schools – Daniel E. Gutekanst (Superintendent) & Caren Figer (Needham Education Association President)
Norwood Public Schools – David Thomson, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Jody Smith (Norwood Teachers Association President)
The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough – Greg Martineau (Superintendent)
The Public Schools of Brookline – V. James Marini, Ph.D. (Interim Superintendent) & Jessica Wender-Shubow (The Brookline Educators Union)
Sudbury Public Schools – Brad Crozier (Superintendent)
The Education Cooperative – Elizabeth McGonagle (Executive Director)
The Education Cooperative Connections Academy – Patrick Lattuca (Superintendent) & Brittany Russell (TECCA President)
Watertown Public Schools – Deanne Galdston, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Debra King (Watertown Educators Association President)
Wellesley Public Schools – David Lussier, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Kyle Gekopi (Wellesley Educators Association President)
Weston Public Schools – Dr. Marguerite Connolly (Superintendent) & Susan Bairstow (Weston Educators Association President)
Waltham Public Schools – Brian Reagan, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Nathaniel Rono & Ryan Hoyt (Waltham Educators Association Co-Presidents)
Walpole Public Schools – Bridget Gough, Ed.D. (Superintendent) & Dave Cuzzi (Walpole Teachers Association President)
Wayland Public Schools – Arthur Unobskey (Superintendent)
Westwood Public Schools – Emily Parks (Superintendent)