Teachers show support for Gloucester’s ESPs


Sofia Orlando

(from left) MTA President Max Page, GAEP President Monica Madruga, GTA President Rachel Rex, MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy, Malden Educators Association President Deb Gesualdo, Brookline Educators Union President Jessica Wender-Shubow show their support for Gloucester’s ESPs at a rally on Monday.

On March 27, Gloucester teachers, and supporters from schools across the North Shore, came to rally with GHS’s Educational Paraprofessionals. At the event, members of The Gloucester Teachers Association (GTA) and Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) were present in order to show their support for their teaching aids and other members of the Gloucester Association of Educational Paraprofessionals (GAEP) as the bargaining process for GAEP’s contract negotiations begin. 

All those in attendance were there to support the GAEP’s demands, including raising their wages which currently range from $22,000-$28,000- almost $30,000 below the average cost of living for those living in Essex County which is around $50,000. 

The GAEP is asking for ESP’s wages to be raised to a minimum of $40,000 per year, affordable access to education, and to receive the respect other Gloucester teachers have. 

“If we are improving the working conditions for faculty and staff, then we are also improving the learning environment for students,” GTA President Rachel Rex said regarding the issue. “It’s really a win-win situation.” 

“ESPs and paraprofessionals are the people that are in the classroom everyday supporting students,” GAEP President Monica Madruga said . “Yes, students are being supported by teachers but we are the ones making sure that their work is getting done or IEP needs are being met. We are the people that are in it with the kids and for the kids, and the respect that we get makes us feel like our job is less important.” 

At the event, Massachusetts Teachers Association officials were present showing their support, including MTA President Max Page, MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy, Malden Education Association President Deb Gesualdo, and Brookline Educators’ Union President Jessica Wender-Shubow. 

Many showed up to the demonstration with signs showing their support for ESPs, as well as joining in on the rally cry of “PARA pay is not OK, we deserve 40K.”

“We just want equal pay for what we do everyday for these kids,” said Dawn Catalini during the event. “We want to be here, we just can’t afford to do this alone. We want change.”

Multiple speeches were given by  MTA President Max Page, MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy, and MTA Field Rep. Anthony Parolisi before the crowd headed inside the GHS Library to hear the deliberations. 

GTA Vice President Matthew Lewis also sang a union song to boost morale before heading inside to the meeting.