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More volunteers: Gatsas is on to something

Why would you put a teacher in charge of a roomful of children whose lessons are being delivered by another teacher?

That is the question Mayor Ted Gatsas is posing by advocating that virtual learning classrooms in Manchester's public schools be headed by volunteers, not teachers. He has a great point.

The mayor wants to expand learning opportunities in the public schools by providing "virtual classrooms." Students could either take a course through the state's Virtual Learning Academy Charter School or through a video link from another school. Either way, the lesson would be delivered by a teacher somewhere else. But an adult still needs to be in the room, for obvious reasons. Gatsas says those adults need not be teachers, but can be volunteers from the community.

Predictably, the Manchester Education Association, the teachers union, has expressed "concerns" about this idea. But the MEA is really concerned about union membership and compensation. It wants its members in those classrooms. That would boost its membership and its bottom line. But that would cost taxpayers a lot more without providing an educational benefit of corresponding value (another teacher is teaching the class). No wonder Gatsas wants to go with volunteers.

The mayor ought to push his idea hard. He also should look for other areas where the schools can make better use of volunteers (as they already do in some areas). Teachers should teach. But we need not rely on professional staff to run every aspect of the school day.

Eric Church
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