ONE FOR THE BOOKS. Hull’s Deborah McCarthy is the newly elected vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. She is shown here outside the Boston Public Library with the new president of the teachers union, Max Page. [Courtesy photo]
As she assumes VP role in state teachers’ union, educator credits Hull roots for ‘fighting’ spirit
By Carol Britton Meyer
As the newly-elected vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, longtime Jacobs Elementary School teacher Deborah McCarthy says her first goal is “to guarantee the passage of the Massachusetts Fair Share Amendment.”
The FSA is a proposal to amend the Massachusetts State Constitution through a ballot initiative in November aimed at instituting a surtax of four percentage points on the portion of an individual’s annual income that is above $1 million.
The new revenue generated by the tax would be spent on public education, affordable public universities and colleges, and the maintenance and repair of roads, bridges, and public transportation, she said.
“Passage of this initiative would provide more than $2 billion annually for public education” and the other purposes mentioned above, McCarthy told The Hull Times.
McCarthy has been a fifth-grade teacher in the Hull Public Schools for 25 years. She has a long history in town, including working with the Parks and Recreation program when she was 16 as a swimming instructor.
“More than 46 years have passed, and I have become my best self as a direct result of the difference that the students in this town have made on my life,” she said.
Her mother, Nancy Dunn, now 86, had a 50-year teaching career with the HPS – including her many years as a seventh-grade English teacher and as a substitute teacher after she retired.
McCarthy is taking a two-year leave of absence to further her efforts in her new MTA role.
“It is going to be incredibly difficult to leave the classroom and the incredible HPS educators,” she said. “However, I must commit my energy full-time to the fight. I believe that public education is the foundation of our democracy, and currently it is under attack by those who seek to profit from our public good.”
McCarthy explained that in her opinion, one of the biggest challenges facing educators today is “the privatization of public education by those who do not have the best interests of our students, our schools, or our communities in mind.”
By means of explanation, McCarthy gave the example that “there are no public school educators in the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education.”
She went on to express the opinion that “political appointments drive an austerity narrative that has been deliberate and purposeful in underfunding our schools and eliminating educator autonomy and professionalism, while reducing our students to a test score for profit’s sake,” referring to MCAS exams.
McCarthy said that testing is a “billion-dollar” business.
“Not only are there million-dollar contracts with the state to impose the high-stakes testing rank-and-sort accountability regime, but there are then all of the extended profits gained from profiteers who peddled their teaching to the test programs and software,” McCarthy said. “Likewise, DESE is relentless with mandates that are unfunded, and we are constantly asking our local districts to do more with less. It really isn’t an achievement gap but rather an opportunity gap. Some school districts have science labs, librarians, and band lessons, while others have students in front of computers all day long practicing high-stakes testing questions.”
Other goals McCarthy said she will be working on with newly-elected MTA President Max Page will be “to dismantle the high-stakes, racist, punitive, testing regime [referring to the MCAS exam], and to restore educator autonomy and professionalism in our classrooms.”
McCarthy also plans to work with Page to implement the ESP (Education Support Personnel or paraprofessionals) Bill of Rights that “seeks to provide a living wage for some of our most valued education workers.”
She further noted that the campaign platform she and Page ran on stated that “we are committed to racial, economic, gender, and climate justice and that we will continue to grow the power of rank-and-file unionism.”
She considers it an honor to be elected as the vice-president of “the largest labor union” in the Northeast.
“My election is a testament to the respect and esteem that this labor union of more than 115,000 educators in Massachusetts has for the Hull Teachers Association, and is an endorsement of the platform on which Max Page and I ran,” McCarthy said.
She called the MTA “a member-driven organization – governed by democratic principles – that accepts and supports the interdependence of professionalism and unionism. The MTA promotes the use of its members’ collective power to advance their professional and economic interests, is committed to human and civil rights, and advocates for quality public education in an environment in which lifelong learning and innovation can flourish.”
When asked to name some of the biggest challenges facing the MTA today and looking ahead, McCarthy said they center around “countering the false austerity narrative promoted by the privateers that has underfunded our public schools and colleges for years. The recent pandemic has spotlighted the grave concerns around the lack of adequate ventilation systems in our schools, the importance of providing wraparound services, and the imperative to educate the whole child.”
As a longtime MTA member, McCarthy has served as the chair of the Government Relations Committee and as a member of the board of directors. She currently serves as a director for the National Education Association.
“Besides my strong opposition to the MCAS exam, my recent efforts have centered on open-bargaining, open-governance, and the need for more involvement of stakeholders around the important decisions that guide our schools,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy explained her personal goals when teaching HPS students.
“My work as an educator for the Hull Public Schools system has always been to focus on the whole child, to maximize the individual strengths and potential of every student, and to provide a strong sense of community and a love for learning,” she said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, and likewise, it takes a village to lift up a leader. My election is a direct result of the important relationships with my family, friends, and union colleagues who have guided, mentored, and supported me in my fight for the working conditions that educators, the schools, and our students deserve.”
McCarthy said her “fighting” spirit is a direct result of the “love, admiration, and respect that I have for HPS educators, Hull students – and most of all, my hero and mother, Nancy Esther Dunn.”