By Cary Shuman and John Lynds
Approximately 100 educators and community members gathered in the hallway outside of the Jan. 30 meeting of the Revere School Committee at the Revere High School.
The group was present to support the 17 elementary educators at Whelan who have been disciplined for allegedly incorrectly administering a school breakfast program, (according to a press release from the Revere Teachers Association (RTA)).
The School Committee meeting was open to the public, but the Committee then went into executive session, which is a private meeting that assures the confidentiality of the sensitive matters being discussed.
“The district alleges that the 17 teachers were insubordinate on a day that they did not follow the breakfast reporting procedure that was adopted last year for one year and then continued into this year against the objections of the union,” said RTA President Erik Fearing.
Fearing said the current status of the teachers is that “they are awaiting a response from the grievance hearings (eight teachers had hearings Thursday before the School Committee) – the other teachers are in various places in the process.”
Fearing said the RTA has also filed an unfair labor practice charge relating to the change in working conditions with the State Department of Labor Relations.
Fearing contends that there was “a change to the way the breakfast count is done.”
“That change resulted in the addition of clerical work to teachers’ duties without having bargained it,” said Fearing.
Fearing said the RTA is awaiting the School Committee’s decision “on whether they will reduce the severity of the discipline for all the teachers from whom they’ve heard these grievances.”
The members of the School Committee who will be making the decision are Mayor Brian Arrigo, Carol Tye, Stacey Rizzo, Frederick Sannella, Susan Gravellese, Michael Ferrante, and Anthony D’Ambrosio.
Without going into the specifics of the case, Revere School Superintendent Dianne Kelly gave the Revere Journal some history of the program and how it has been implemented over the past six years at the Whelan School.
Six years ago, three Revere Schools began to offer Extended Learning Time (ELT) through federal grant money. At the Whelan, Hill and Garfield schools, the ELT program included extra time in the morning for the ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ program.
When ELT was first implemented at the Whelan, teachers there asked for a 40-minute Social and Emotional Learning Block. During this block students were offered breakfast in the classroom, went over the previous night’s homework and had circle time to discuss feelings and emotions.
Teachers at the Whelan School, who receive an ELT stipend of $12,000 to $16,000 per year extra on average, were required to keep a tally of how many breakfasts were taken each morning.
“Teachers have been taking the breakfast count at the Whelan School for six years,” said Kelly. “It has been done differently at different times depending on where we are in the federal cycle for resetting our baseline in order to get more accurate counts. We are federally mandated to reset our baseline every four years.”
Kelly explained that in the years that the schools were required to take a more accurate count, teachers were required to check off the names of each student that took a breakfast during the ELT block.
“Then there were years when we didn’t have to be that extract because we were not resetting our baselines,” said Kelly. “During those years teachers simply had to write down the number of breakfasts that were delivered to the classroom and subtract the number of breakfasts that were taken by students.”
These breakfast counts are important to Revere School District’s ability to continue to receive federal funding reimbursements.
“If we don’t take accurate breakfast counts we don’t get that money back,” said Kelly. “The reason we can give free breakfast to our students is because the federal government reimburses us most of that cost.”
Kelly said the district receives $1.5 to $2 million federal reimbursement each year for the breakfast program at Revere schools.
By Cary Shuman and John Lynds