Educators Are Burning Out as CEA Rallies For Change


Madeline Nohrnberg

Cambridge educators rally in the midst of contract negotiations.

Madeline Nohrnberg and Alma Barak

“I do not feel like our voices are heard,” Adaline Lining, a sixth grade history teacher, told the Register Forum. “I do not know that our concerns are being taken seriously.”

 On May 2nd, 2023, approximately 300 Cambridge educators gathered outside the Cambridge School Committee meeting room in support of the Cambridge Educators Association (CEA)’s new contract proposal. The CEA has been negotiating with the School Committee throughout the year, hoping to increase teacher salaries and reduce workloads. The Register Forum spoke with representatives from the CEA, however, the School Committee and mayor both declined to comment. 

 While Cambridge teacher salaries are 13.6% higher than the state average, many educators still struggle to make ends meet. Jillian Kalen, a special education teacher, told the Register Forum, “I’ve been teaching for 15-plus years, probably closer to 20. I still work two other jobs on top of teaching.”

Cambridge’s costly housing prevents many educators from living in the city. “I’m very grateful and blessed to have what I have. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” said Christopher Montero, a CRLS history teacher. “But I would love to live in the community that I serve.” 

 In order to alleviate some expenses, CPS does offer a cost of living adjustment: an increase in salaries to counteract inflation, at around 2.5%. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall rate of inflation in the Boston-Cambridge area is around 4.7%.  This has resulted in many CPS educators using almost their entire salaries for monthly expenses. “I’m living paycheck to paycheck now,” said Nick Watter, a history teacher at CRLS. “I might have a little extra here and there, but no big savings.” 

The CEA is also advocating for reduced educator workloads. “Our educators are burning out. We’re seeing people leave the profession,” said Dan Monahan, president of the CEA. “We’re seeing more educators having to take mental health leaves to recover from the stress of being in the classroom.”

The aforementioned city-wide staffing shortages stretch educators thin. “My school had a posting for a pre-K teacher that is still open. We weren’t able to find anyone to fill it. It means that those who are in the buildings have to do extra work,” said Banke Oluwale, Vice President of Community Relations for the CEA. 

This has resulted in many CPS educators using almost their entire salaries for monthly expenses.

Superintendent Greer explained to the Register Forum that, “The district has recently launched the Educator Pathway Program (EPP),” in an effort to address these concerns and attract more educators. The EPP supports paraprofessionals and teachers on emergency licenses who are pursuing their Master’s degrees. 

Despite this, Cambridge educators still struggle with inadequate pay and increasingly high demands. “I don’t think the School Committee realizes those little things that we’re doing every day,” said CRLS Spanish teacher Eydie Ortiz, one of the many educators fighting for the voices of overloaded teachers. “I brought in a backpack for a student that doesn’t have one,” she described.  “I’m doing my Spanish teacher thing. I’m working on the weekends and evenings, but I’m also bringing in backpacks.”

This article also appears in our May/June 2023 print edition.