A December 13 message from BTU President Richard Stutman:
I have a bittersweet announcement this morning: I will not be seeking re-election in June. Some of you may have already suspected this, as I’ve been told I have been dropping hints. I’m sure I have. Except for four years in college, I have been in the BPS in one capacity or another since 1955 when I entered kindergarten at the Lyndon School with Miss Clifford and left homeroom 135 at BLS with Dr. Desmond. I’ll be retiring in June for one simple reason: It’s time.
I began as a substitute teacher in 1972, then got hired in the BPS in 1973 as a 7th grade math teacher at the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School. Mathematics was a passion of mine and still is, and I began my professional career teaching what I love. Now, 45 years later, it’s time to retire.
Don’t let anyone tell you a decision as to when to retire is easy; it’s not. I have been blessed for 45 years to have enjoyed my work in BPS and BTU every day, and it’s not easy to leave something that’s been such an integral part of your existence.
In my first 11 years, I was challenged – and rewarded – by my students. By the way, the reward was not measured by my students’ success on a standardized test. The looks on my students’ faces when they mastered a concept was my reward. Each June I asked students to write in their own words answers to two questions: 1) Did they like math? and 2) Did they learn much? They answered with candor. I welcomed their feedback, took it to heart, and learned from it. I didn’t need anything else – MCAS test scores or drive-by evaluation visits – to motivate me to do my best. Neither do you.
For the last 34 years I have been honored by you to be elected to represent you, the last 14 as your president, and I have been humbled by the responsibility you have placed on my shoulders. I have worked to uphold your trust.
Being president comes with major responsibilities, all of which are complicated and interrelated, and many of which are beyond one’s immediate control and influence. Regardless of any difficulty and without any excuse, the BTU has an obligation to do its best by representing its members well, joining coalitions as we did on Question 2 and working nationally to push back on the omnipresent anti-public education agenda. I worked to fulfill these responsibilities, and my successor will assuredly push forward in these same directions.
Like you, I am not happy with the demonization of teachers and their unions for all things allegedly bad with public schools. Actually, our public schools are quite good. The voters just said so. And the newest PISA results, which ranked Mass Schools virtually as tops in the world, affirmed this. Those who have helped create the privatization movement of our public schools (e.g., Betsy DeVos) and those who wish to exploit it (e.g., Charlie Baker) have an interest in bringing the public schools down. We won’t let them.
One thing I had hoped to accomplish with your help is the settling of our current contract. I had hopes of settling quickly, as did our negotiating team, in late summer when we scheduled six full days of negotiations in a 10-day period. But it was not to be. The school district does not want to settle the contract quickly, and the two days of negotiations we scheduled at the end of November have done nothing to change that opinion. There could still be a contract settlement in the short term – and we are ready and willing – but we’re not particularly optimistic. There are a few difficult issues remaining on the table, and while we have made some progress, it hasn’t been enough. Our goal is simple: We want to obtain a contract that is good for schools and students and fair to our membership.
There’s an internal BTU matter we had hoped to settle – a streamlining of the BTU election process – and we have. This year in June we will have a mail-in ballot sent out directly to everyone eligible. No one will have to fill out an application for a ballot; all members will automatically receive one. We have a new Election Committee working hard to get all of this done, and things are on track. We will make sure that whatever problems happened last time will not happen again.
As I leave in June, the BTU is well prepared for challenges ahead. We have enthusiastic, skilled and thoughtful people in our ranks and on our various and active committees. We have committed, deliberative leaders on our Executive Board and in our office. We have healthy finances, improved communications, and a good sense internally of our strengths and weaknesses. Our classrooms represent the very best in urban education. We’ll do just fine, and our work will continue to improve.
I do have to thank many people for the help and encouragement I have received over the last three and half decades, but that’d be impossible in this space, and you’d never get to read the rest of the eBulletin. So let me thank just a few.
Thank you to the membership, who makes me proud every day. To give but one example: I spent a few hours at Mildred Ave. last week with the US Secretary of Education. Mildred Ave., once teetering near Turnaround/Takeover status, has developed its own teacher-driven plan for improvement without any outside mandate or state interference. The result has been remarkable and is a tribute to the staff who work there. Mildred’s turnaround shows what our members are capable of.
Thank you to our 3,500 retirees, who helped build our organization.
Thank you to my fellow officers, staff and Executive Board. I appreciate your help and guidance.
Thank you, BTU secretaries. You are wonderful.
Thank you to my wife, Nancy, who taught in the BPS for over 30 years, for being supportive and much more, and for letting me know every day the pulse of the membership. And thank you, Sarah, a BPS graduate, for being a wonderful daughter, and letting me experience the BPS through the eyes of a student and a family.