Opinion: Vote yes on the teacher’s contract in Weare

The Fun Run at the Weare Middle School.

The Fun Run at the Weare Middle School. File

By MATTHEW THOMAS

Published: 03-09-2024 6:30 AM

Matthew Thomas lives in Weare.

Nearly two decades ago our town found itself at a crossroads with its middle school. Support and commitment to the current and future students of this community by voting to pass a bond for a new school building or continue to limp along with patchwork funding in the hopes that a cheaper solution might somehow surface. We chose correctly that day and face a similar crossroads again today with the proposed teacher’s contract.

During my tenure as a school board member, I helped to negotiate nine agreements that were presented to the public for approval. The guiding principles for each one of those negotiations were to retain our exceptional staff, attract new talent and maintain fiscal responsibility. Achieving these goals meant sacrifices that would sometimes reward more than others based on longevity, unintentionally creating a gap that left teachers behind on the competitive pay scale. It is a cold fact of this type of negotiation.

Initially, like many others, I approached this proposed contract with skepticism. Too much for those who have been here longer, not enough for recruiting or retention. However, as I sat and watched the presentation by the board, with examples of teachers on the pay scale and how they would benefit, it dawned on me that I knew who each one of those anonymous examples was. These were the teachers I was fighting to retain during my time negotiating. This is wrong and I am bothered that my efforts contributed to this predicament which I fought so hard to prevent.

The current board researched and assessed current and future cost and then presented those facts at the deliberative session. The finance committee appears to have made recommendations based on opinion and little fact. “It’s a bridge too far” is an opinion, not a fact that allows voters to assess accurately. “A recession follows inflation” has become an opinion and is no longer a fact.

I don’t know the economist they consulted before writing that comment, but I do know the predicted recession, 12 months after short-term bond rates rise above long-term bond rates, has not happened. There are many things about our current leaders and legislatures that I don’t like and hope to change with the November election, but the economy and its resilience have proven to be something that rises above both political parties.

This proposed contract is a more localized issue. One for which the impact can be seen in people and students that you know. Our governor recently highlighted New Hampshire’s low unemployment and growing economy, along with strong home appreciation rates. While borrowing money may be costlier, most of those reading this likely have major debt financed well below current interest rates. An investment into your own community can pay dividends almost immediately by stopping the turnover of teachers that is putting stress on school staff as well as put the students back on a meaningful path of learning.

When you enter the voting booth this March, ready to make your selection for this article, please block out the noise. Ask yourself if you and your family can afford the amount requested to ensure the future health of our schools and the well-being of your children, grandchildren or neighbors.

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It should be heartwarming when you hear a story of a student who is so impacted by a teacher or teachers in their life that they wish to pursue the same career. Even more so when that student is a Weare student who after earning a degree comes home to our town and begins that career where their dream began. When that same student now teacher must leave because the wage we offer can’t support their family, what does that say for our community?

Lastly, occasionally I am reminded of the plaque inside the entrance of the middle school proudly displaying the names of the board members, including mine, who worked tirelessly to pass the building bond. My pride is not for the individual work we did, but that when faced with decisions such as this, our town has risen to the occasion and done the right thing.

The time is right for that choice again. Please vote yes on the teacher’s contract.