Teachers call out Board of Ed. for school system changes


Photo by Jasper Bernstein.

MCPS teachers join a Red of Ed protest during the MCPS Board of Education meeting on Oct. 26. Many issues including wages and working conditions are at the center of attention.

By Jasper Bernstein, Observations Editor

The wind roared, making the sub-50 degree weather feel like a blizzard. Although the conditions were unbearable, the teachers persevered. For hours on end, tens of teachers stood outside the MCPS Board of Education, marching and protesting for not only themselves – but the students too.

It’s no secret that teachers have been pushing for better working conditions. In fact, the meeting they were protesting at included a budget amendment to increase MCPS wages to keep up with the cost of living. Negotiated with the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the amendment gave a 1.5% raise to all MCPS staff, effective Jan. 29th, 2022.

However, the MCEA was protesting for more than just wages. Among the protesters was Dalbin Osorio, the Managing Director of Public Affairs at the MCEA. As an outspoken advocate and previous MCPS school board candidate, Osorio believes that the biggest issue for MCPS is the staff shortage.

“There’s been a worker shortage. That has now led to an overload of what we’re asking our teachers to do, so we have teachers who are undertaking public health duties, who are missing their state-mandated lunches, who are doing bus duty. There’s a lot of things that our teachers are being asked [to do] that isn’t teaching,” Osorio said.

The shortage of teachers has also led to consequences for WCHS; teachers are being asked to cover periods that a substitute teacher would have once covered. In response, according to Bethesda Magazine, the MCEA has filed three class-action labor grievances in response to the increased workload among teachers.

“Our students are the ones suffering because there are overcrowded classrooms. They’re not receiving the individualized attention they need because of MCPS’s continued insistence on ignoring the problem in filling these positions long ago,” Osorio said.

Some teachers have always felt compelled to make sacrifices to help their students better, but the current shortage has exacerbated the issue. These issues aren’t new, but the return to full-time in-person learning is the biggest rationale for the current push.

“Right now, MCPS and the Board of Education are acting as if everything is fine… the reality on the ground is that it is not,” said Ben Israel, a social studies teacher at North Bethesda MS who attended the protest. “We’re overworked, and we have enormous expectations [from] the state.”

There’s a clear issue present in MCPS, but MCEA members are offering their own set of solutions.

“I would change the focus from data based on numbers based on standardized testing to what the students need.” Israel said. “Do they feel like they’re adapting well to being back in the building? Do they feel like they’re supported by the adults in the building?”

For now, the MCEA is pushing for more reforms, much like the wage increase that passed during the protest. However, there will always be more issues for the MCEA to fight for.

“There’s an old adage: show me your budget and I’ll show you my priorities. MCPS for a really long time has not filled [open staff positions], just to show a really positive bottom line. But now what happens [is] the bill comes due,” Osorio said.