Militant Journalism

105 educators fired in Malden, Mass. — students lead the fight back!

Students, teachers, parents and community members are demanding the reinstatement of 105 educators who were “pink slipped” in Malden, Massachusetts. Over 100 people gathered outside Malden City Hall on June 6 to put pressure on Superintendent Ligia Noriega-Murphy and the Malden School Committee to rescind their decision not to renew the employment of 105 teachers, social workers, and other school staff.

Eduardo Palacios, organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana, speaks about the connection between housing justice and education justice. Liberation photo

After an hour of speakers, the crowd moved inside to the school committee meeting for the public comment period. Malden Education Association members opened with a choral reading of the reasons their union overwhelmingly approved a vote of “no confidence” on June 1 for Superintendent Noriega-Murphy. There were more speakers than the allotted time would allow. 

The action was supported by members, staff and volunteers with the Malden Education Association, City Life/Vida Urbana, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Belmont Education Association, SEIU Local 888, UNITE HERE Local 26, MIT Grad Student Union and the Boston Liberation Center. 

Students lead the teachers

Malden Education Association leaves 105 candles at Noriega-Murphy’s office. Liberation Photo.

More than a thousand Malden High School students walked out of class and marched to City Hall in protest on May 16, just four days after the pink slips were delivered. The protest garnered significant media coverage which prompted a statement from Noriega-Murphy. 

Sarah Pham, a Malden student who took part in the walkout, told Liberation News that the seniors “put flyers on their social media, and handed out little papers that told all the information, like ‘be here Monday!'”

Just one day after the walkout, two senior organizers spoke at a vigil organized by MEA for the 105 “educational relationships extinguished” by Noriega-Murphy’s decision.

In his speech, Senior Armani Dure said “the money is there” to fully staff schools. After the vigil, Dure told Liberation News, “While I’m disappointed and really upset, and I was surprised, it’s not something that wasn’t in the corner of my mind. Especially when it’s a known fact that she called teachers and administrators replaceable, I understand that she would do this.”

Voices from the Malden Public Schools community

Jacob Augenstern is a 7th grade history teacher whose contract was not renewed.

“It’s the students who have been leading us! It’s the students more than anyone else who were quick to recognize that teachers’ working conditions are student learning conditions. I saw that on a poster that a student made. How many of you saw a thousand-strong student walk out? That gave me life!”

Malden Public Schools students hold a sign that reads, “When out teachers suffer, our education suffers.” Liberation photo

Lovely Anne Gerochi is a MPS student.

“We are the ones who the situation affects the most. We have built strong relationships with qualified and caring teachers. Our schools are understaffed enough as it is. We want our teachers back and our schools to be fully staffed.”

Over 100 community members gather outside Malden City Hall in solidarity with MPS students and teachers on June 6. Liberation photo

MPS is one of the most racially diverse districts in Massachusetts, yet 92% of educators are white. Malden has double the number of English language learners as the state average, and 50% of its students did not learn English as their first language. MEA President Deb Gesualdo said:

“It’s also important that everyone knows that around 20% of the staff non-renewed are people of color and many are multilingual. So much for hiring, supporting, and retaining staff that looks more like our students, huh?”

Christina Anasthal is a Malden high school freshman.

“One worker I would like to point out specifically is the Jenkins Health social worker over at Malden High, Taysia Holmes [-Maxwell] … in all my years in the Malden district, from my kindergarten to freshman year, I have only been able to look up to three Black women. One has moved to the Cambridge District to become an assistant principal. One who still works at the Ferryway [School]. And the last one you have unfortunately pink slipped.”

Members of the crowd hold signs reading “Education Justice is Racial Justice!” and “Students Demand Fully Staffed Schools!” Liberation photo

Kristina Kisthart is a former Malden student and current Malden middle school art teacher.

“My city stabbed me in the back. I got my master’s degree and got a layoff three days later … And I was let go for ‘low performance’ even though I was rated proficient in my evaluation and have worked so hard to go above and beyond the requirements of my job.”

The crowd packs Malden City Hall for the School Committee meeting public comment period on June 6. Liberation photo

Tara Murphy is an educator in Somerville, Massachusetts, and a parent of a Malden student.

“Our schools are already understaffed and the needs are beyond great. It is hard to get educators. People are exiting this career at the highest rate I’ve seen in my 21 years. We need dedicated educators more than ever … my son and other students need consistency, not more changes.”

It is not too late to reverse course

Superintendent Noriega-Murphy and the Malden School Committee still have a chance to rescind the non-renewals and avoid doing further damage to MPS and the Malden community. 

Jacob Augenstern holds a mock performance evaluation for Noriega-Murphy used to motivate MEA’s vote of no confidence during public comment. Liberation photo

Augenstern told Liberation News, “All of our grievances are about policies. They’re not about personalities, they’re not about identities. They are policy decisions that ultimately are the responsibility of the entirety of the school committee. If these decisions are reversed, we are completely willing to work with Superintendent Noriega-Murphy. We put that in our vote of no confidence.”

Gesualdo told Liberation News that it will take continued solidarity between students, the MEA and the community to win these educators’ jobs back. Our readers can support the struggle of the Malden educators with the following actions:

  1. Follow MEA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and share their posts. Malden students demonstrated the power of social media in organizing.
  2. Write and send comments to Superintendent Noriega-Murphy and the Malden School Committee.
  3. Attend future actions: The next solidarity rally will be outside of MEA’s next bargaining session on Thursday, June 16, 3:00 p.m. at 215 Pleasant Street, Malden City Hall.

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