An open letter to the School Committee

Dear School Committee members,

My name is Celestino Basile. Some may know me because I have been a teacher in the Gloucester Public Schools since September 1984; thirty-seven years and still going strong.

The reason why I feel compelled to write to you is because of things I hear regarding the negotiations of our new contract.

First and foremost, I would like to tell you a little about myself. The reason why I became a teacher was not so I could get the summer off, but because I was inspired by a former high school teacher when I was a student at Haverhill High School. Being a teacher is a calling that one feels because we believe we can make a difference in young people’s lives, as I hope I did in my thirty-seven years of dedicated service.

You, as our employer, require us to be the best we can be. You ask us to be highly qualified professionals, you require us to keep our certification active, and be responsible individuals. We have done so, and much more. I have taken time away from my family to spend four long summers obtaining my master’s in Spanish at Middlebury College in Vermont. I was away from my family to spend a summer in Salamanca, Spain improving my language skills. I have been away from my family taking courses on countless weekends so that I could reach the track, master’s plus 60. All of this coursework was at my expense with perhaps $200 reimbursement from Gloucester.

I have taken time away from my family during Spring break taking students to Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal for years in order to give them an opportunity to experience the world outside the textbooks. Due to the success of those trips, many went into education, many more returned to the country we visited to further their study. Last April I had to cancel a Spain trip due to COVID-19, disappointing forty-eight students who were eager to experience something new.

There is talk about wanting to reduce our sick days or restrict us from taking our personal days. Let me tell you that personally, I am not one who abuses them, nor do I think there are many in our staff who do. When my wife was sick with colon cancer I waited until the last possible day before I applied for the family leave and not before I had a suitable and very competent replacement. When I finally left, I knew my students were in good hands with Teresa Gallo as my substitute. She is now a valued and respected member of the faculty at GHS. I was only out a little over one month because my wife passed on November 16th, 2013. I returned to work after Thanksgiving. If there are individuals who may be abusing the sick days or personal days, they should be spoken to individually and not penalize everyone with the same paintbrush.

As you may be aware, I am at the top of the pay scale. Those of us who have achieved that level due to years and education have not had a meaningful raise for years. On each opening day, you tell us how much we do for our children, how great we are, how thankful you are for our service, how much you value us, and yes, I think we deserve those words of praise and more. Just think how fast we adjusted literally going from one day to the next online. We all took crash courses and in-service seminars. Many of our talented teachers became instructors to those of us less technologically inclined. We turned the entire school system from in-person to remote seamlessly. The Gloucester School System became the poster board for the entire state of Massachusetts.

We turned the entire school system from in-person to remote seamlessly. The Gloucester School System became the poster board for the entire state of Massachusetts. Now that it is time to put the money where your mouth is, you are offering us a 1% raise? Really?”

— Celestino Basile

Now that it is time to put the money where your mouth is, you are offering us a 1% raise? Really? Do you, by any chance, think that we don’t have families to support? Children to send to college? Mortgages to pay? etc… If all we get is a 1 miserable % raise, in less than one year we will be on negative 5%. I will tell you why. Our health insurance will go up, union dues will go up, life will, and already has, gone up. It is no secret that the rate of inflation averages over 3% each year, and we have not gotten a meaningful raise for years to even keep up with this. In other words, I am essentially making less than I did a year ago.

I will close this letter asking you to fairly consider a decent cost of living increase. We deserve NO LESS.

Thank you for your time and consideration.