Commentary: What about us, the Barrington teachers?

By Dr. Kevin M. Blanchard, Ed.D., NBCT
Posted 2/15/22

With the click of my right index finger I may have contributed to the termination of more than 30 of my colleagues.

I teach in Barrington and the members of our school committee are insisting that …

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Commentary: What about us, the Barrington teachers?

Posted

With the click of my right index finger I may have contributed to the termination of more than 30 of my colleagues.

I teach in Barrington and the members of our school committee are insisting that all teachers who have not received their COVID-19 booster shots do so immediately or be fired.

We met last week as a union to learn the details of a proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the school committee which requires all non-boosted teachers to follow a series of twice weekly COVID tests and other cautionary protocols. Non-boosted teachers who fail to comply with these measures could face “progressive discipline up to and including termination in accordance with law.”

We were informed that if we did not support the MOA, the school committee would be legally able to dismiss these teachers outright if they refuse to be boosted. 

I voted against the proposal. A majority of my colleagues who voted did not.

I believe in personal liberty. I believe in public safety, and I believe that everyone should do what they can to keep themselves and those around them safe and healthy during this pandemic.

But I also believe in equity and I don’t like to be bullied.

Full disclosure: I am fully-vaccinated having received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and a booster shot last year. Since the Omicron surge, I wear a N-95 mask in my classroom and as I walk the hallways of our school along with more than 1,200 students, teachers, counselors, administrators and other staff members. I am 55 years old, immunocompromised and I want to stay alive and healthy for as long as I can.

Given these facts, some oldtimers might say I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but they would be wrong. I have one question:

What about the students?

Sixty of the 1,119 members of my high school’s student body remain unvaccinated as of February 11.

Not vaccinated. At all. By choice.

What about these individuals?

Our district fired three teachers in the fall for refusing to be vaccinated for religious reasons. One unvaccinated teacher was allowed to continue teaching because of documented health issues. Needless to say, fierce legal battles loom on the horizon.

And now more than 30 of my colleagues may face termination because they have not been boosted—i.e.,they have received the first two doses of the vaccine but not the recommended third “booster” shot.

And today, I will teach and walk amongst 60 teenagers who are not vaccinated and others who wear their masks as if they are costume jewelry instead of valuable public health devices.

If the school committee truly seeks to place the safety of our students at a premium—as they should—they should equally value the health and safety of the adults in the building as well.

Gina Bae, Amanda Regino Basse, Patrick McCrann, Dr. Megan P. Douglas, and Erika Sevetson, I encourage you to use your bully pulpits to pursue equity and public safety for all.

If parents are permitted the liberty to send their unvaccinated adolescents to Barrington High School, my question stands: 

What about us?

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.