Revere Teachers Association Sounds Off on Health and Safety

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Several members of the Revere Teachers Association (RTA) took to the microphone during the public speaking portion of last week’s School Committee meeting to raise awareness of some of the issues regarding health and safety in the district. Michelle Ervin, Co-President of the RTA, led off the discussion, indicating that more than 700 RTA members and 200 community members signed a petition regarding health and safety. “We believe that the health and safety crisis in our schools is out of hand. Our members and the community have been calling on you to solve this problem for a pretty long time, and we believe we are now at a breaking point, and we can no longer ignore these issues,” said Ervin. Ervin cited issues faced by students and staff members, including unfair sick leave policies, unmanageable caseloads, too-large class sizes, and rodent feces at elementary schools. “We believe these issues can no longer be ignored,” said Ervin, who thought the school committee could solve the issues that day and claimed the issues were rejected during bargaining. It should be noted that when the public speaking portion of the meeting ended, Vice-Chair of the School Committee Jacqueline Monterroso said, “We have not flat out rejected every safety proposal. Negotiations are still ongoing, and we even offered up a seat at the safety subcommittee.” As the meeting progressed, multiple members of the RTA shared their experiences with health and safety in the district. Jessica Gagnon, a nurse at the Garfield Middle School, spoke about issues from a nursing perspective. She explained that the Department of Public Health recommends a 1:500 nurse-to-student ratio and that there have been two vacant full-time positions for the last year. “We have not been fully staffed since the beginning of Covid.” Gagnon spoke about the necessity of more nurses covering these schools and said that, in her position, she has been responsible for elementary and middle school students at Garfield—about 1,200 students—on her own 12 times. Brian MacDonald, an intensive special education teacher at the Garfield Elementary School, detailed safety issues. “Long story short, I’ve been hit, kicked, slapped, scratched, bit, spit at, and had my hair pulled more in the last three years than I have in my entire career of over 20 years,” he said. He explained that these issues are happening in “all of the SPED classes” and that colleagues have had furniture like chairs and tables thrown at them. “Why is this happening? We’re just a couple years out of Covid; we have a lot of trauma. We have trauma in regular education, we have trauma in special education and we don’t have what we need,” said MacDonald. “Teachers and paraprofessionals are getting hurt. I think everyone can agree that no one goes to work to be hurt.” Marisa LeManquais, an Art Teacher at the Lincoln School, discussed her issues with the district’s sick leave police. LeManquais, who has been the Art Teacher at the Lincoln School for eight years, said she maintained good attendance early in her time at Revere, even when sick. During the school year, her family has had bouts with Covid three times, flu-A twice, RSV, and norovirus where she had taken 15 sick days by the time March rolled around and, at a certain point, was unable to take time off for her daughter who was ill because she had used up her family days. “It seems there was no point in me coming to work when I was sick for all those years because even though I have the sick time, according to the current policies, I am not allowed to use it to care for a family member,” said LeManquais. “The policies should be revised so that I can take care of my own family when they get sick.” Katerina Fontes, a first-year ESL Teacher at Revere High School, expressed concerns about “dysregulated students.” Fontes, who has been an ESL teacher for nine years, described instances where things like gum or pencils were thrown at her or other students, being sworn at, a student trying to attack another student with a stapler, students ripping down a pride flag, students using homophobic slurs and more. “I’ve never experienced the sheer amount of dysregulation I have seen during my time here at RHS (Revere High School),” said Fontes, who emphasized that the RTA’s proposals on safety and health should be accepted. Holly Correia, who has taught in Revere for 25 years, discussed issues with rodents, sewage, and facilities. Correia pointed to occurrences around the district, such as the smell of a dead rodent at the Beachmont School, which she described as “debilitating,” mice running around elementary school classes, dead mice under student chairs, and mice feces in the HVAC system. She also spoke about sewage issues at the Garfield School, which got so bad that raw sewage seeped into hallways, and the school had to be dismissed for safety reasons one day. “Our students’ learning conditions and our educators’ working conditions need to be the top priority of the school committee,” said Correia. As the discussion progressed, several more members of the RTA shared their concerns and stories of the district’s issues, such as too few classrooms, rats at RHS, and lack of air conditioning at RHS. At one point, Makaila Cerrone, a Teacher at RHS who has previously worked as an educator in a juvenile detention center, said, “In my almost two full school years at Revere High School, I can say with confidence that I felt safer coming into work every day at juvie.” In the end, the other RTA Co-President, Jane Chapin, made it clear that something had to be done. “We are asking you not just hear us but to act. This crisis has gone on far too long. You cannot look us in the eyes anymore and tell us to respect the work that we’re doing as educators while failing to make the steps to remedy these proposals,” said Chapin. For those interested in viewing the public speaking portion in its entirety, visit The portion begins at 20:35.

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