Editor’s Note: The following is a statement the outgoing Framingham Teachers Association Co-President Sarah McKeon made before the Framingham School Committee on Tuesday, June 13. Her remarks were cut short due to time. Her full statement is below as an op-ed.
My name is Sarah McKeon and I am co- president of the Framingham Teachers Association and a kindergarten teacher at Dunning.
As many of you know, I chose not to run for re-election of FTA and will instead throw my support to the capable and talented Chris Mulroney to carry on as president.
I am here tonight to offer some thoughts as I step away from this position that I have loved for 4 years, and to share some hopes for the future.
First, I would like to thank Bev (Hugo), Michelle (Brosnahan), and Heather (Connolly), as I have had the pleasure of working closely with them all 4 years of my presidency. There were some tough times during those years, but we endured them together and maintained mutual respect and collaboration.
The IBB process that we entered into 3 years ago was a huge success and brought the 2 sides together in a collegial manner that continues to this day; we have continued to meet as a team, and even as recently as yesterday, we met to discuss contract related concerns and questions.
In addition, I would like to thank the other members of the school committee, as it has been a productive relationship. As I transition into my new role as co-chair of the FTA public relations committee, I know we will continue to communicate and interact positively.
Lastly, I would like to thank Ed Gotgart for righting the ship for most of this year, and Bob Tremblay for stepping in early and jumping right in. I have high hopes for the future of the Framingham Public Schools, and a lot of it is due to the hard work of everyone I named. But let me not forget the students and staff; they are the reason I am here, and the people I truly speak up for. They are the priority.
While there have been many positive experiences, there have also been some negative ones that we have all had to learn from. And while some of these experiences may not have made it to the media or even past office doors, they still left us with lasting impressions. That being said, I am here to ask you to please consider a few things.
- Listen to the educators in this district. Too often, concerns have been ignored or unheard or misunderstood. Please keep the lines of communication open, and also be flexible in your thinking. We will do the same. We are not here for the dollars, and frankly, we have sometimes been made to feel that way. That is simply not the case. We are here to advocate for our students, colleagues, and families, so please, acknowledge when we share our stories. Ask us for more details. Look beyond your initial thoughts and truly listen. We are in the classrooms, in the school buildings, face to face with students and families every day. We carry a wealth of knowledge that is not always included in dialogue or decision-making processes, and it should be.
- Support the educators in this district. We have faced multiple challenging situations in recent years: an unreliable evaluation system, developmentally and academically inappropriate curriculum, lack of appropriate district professional development, lack of communication, a rise in student social-emotional needs, the cutting of positions and programs, and administrators who do not treat members with respect or professionalism. Those are just a few examples. And despite the difficulty related to each of these issues, we have remained committed to our profession and to the students in front of us.
- Work together with the educators in this district. We are all here for the same reason: to do right by our students, first and foremost, and to support the staff and school buildings. In reality, we should not be far apart on any of the issues. Let’s take the opportunity to listen and engage in truly meaningful dialogue, and not let our personal opinions or agendas interfere with the mission at hand: educating the students of the Framingham Public Schools. Hear our perspective, and know that we also want to hear yours. There is a saying that people today listen only so that they can then respond; let’s be the exception to that. We should listen to and learn from one another, and continue to build upon the last few years of collaboration.
- And lastly, understand the position and responsibilities of the Framingham Teachers Association. There will be times that we are undeniably on opposite sides of an issue or a decision. It is our responsibility to defend and speak for our members and their rights, and while that may sometimes be difficult, it is what the job entails. We are not going to praise a decision we disagree with, or throw any sort of support to a decision that negatively affects our members or students. It is not our role to make the district or a particular decision look good, or to help anyone feel better about actions that have been taken; the way we make this system look good is by fulfilling our obligations in and out of the classroom and by taking our responsibilities seriously. Which we do. Nor is it your responsibility to give us any kudos where they are not warranted. What I hope is that we can work together, as I said previously, and that we can understand and respect the different roles we all have to play. As I said in my opening speech nearly 4 years ago, we are all different colored crayons working together to create one final masterpiece, and each of us has a place in the process.
Thank you so much for working with me and allowing me to grow as a leader in this district. I am proud of everything we have accomplished and I believe we are poised to do even more amazing things. And just think, you won’t have to hear my bad jokes anymore! But truly, I thank you for your work, your time, and your dedication to the students, staff and families of Framingham. It has been a privilege.