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Teachers concerned about future of Non-Resident Tuition Program – The Sagamore

Eleanor Bergstein, Arts Editor
Noa Fischer (left), Awyn Carson (behind) and Sasha Grande (right) are all enrolled in PSB K-8 schools through the Non-Resident Tuition Program.
For some Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) staff, every day is bring-your-kid-to-work day.
Brookline’s Non-Resident Tuition Program allows PSB staff who live outside the district to apply for their children’s enrollment in the school system. According to the PSB website, “this tuition-based program is operated on a space available basis.” The number of students accepted into the program each year can fluctuate depending on how much additional space the school system has after resident enrollment.
A materials fee must be paid by the families of accepted students to cover the cost of their enrollment. According to Pierce School Chinese teacher Wan Wang, the materials fee for the 2021-22 school year was $3,219 for a family’s first child enrolled and $2,897 for the second.
For many PSB teachers, participating in the Non-Resident Tuition Program is well worth the price. Social Studies teacher Roger Grande, whose daughter is currently enrolled through the program at Pierce, said it helps to retain teachers.
“It triples my investment in the system. I’m trying to build the best possible system for my child just as any parent would want for their child. I get to actually have a real impact on that,” Grande said. “You want to cultivate professionals over time: you don’t want teachers who are in and out every few years. I mean, sure, it’s cheaper, but it’s a way less quality school system. It takes time to develop your professional ability. This keeps people here. I’m not just in during the day and then out again. My life, to a great extent, now revolves around the school community.”
According to Wang and Grande, the Non-Resident Tuition Program makes it easier for teachers to stay in the school buildings after hours because their children are in the same school district. Participants in the program can also take advantage of the district’s extended day programs, Wang said.
According to Biology teacher Liz Crane, the program, known by many as the “materials fee program,” strengthens her morale and commitment to upholding the quality of the PSB.
“In deciding to enroll my two daughters in the materials fee program, I essentially made a 16-year teaching commitment to the Public Schools of Brookline,” Crane said in a statement to the Brookline School Committee.
Superintendent Linus Guillory said students who have already been enrolled in the Non-Resident Tuition Program will not be at risk of losing their spot. However, new applicants still face the possibility of being denied after resident enrollment is accounted for.
For the upcoming 2022-23 school year, 18 applicants have been waitlisted. All 18 waitlisted applicants applied for grades 1-12. All rising Kindergarten applicants were accepted. According to Guillory, the waitlisted applicants should have a final answer by Aug. 13.
“Our biggest enrollment push happens during the summer,” Guillory said. “The rolling admissions process takes place through August. So we’ll be looking at space as our enrollment settles for the upcoming school year.”
Many teachers believe the 18 waitlisted applicants is a sign that the Non-Resident Tuition Program is in jeopardy. They are worried that the number of waitlisted and denied students will only increase in years to come.
According to Wang, the Aug. 13 deadline puts waitlisted families in a difficult position.
“Some families depend on this. They don’t want to wait for August 13 to decide if they’re going to take this job, if they’re going to move closer and if they’re going to rent an apartment in that district,” Wang said. “This is a life decision.”
Grande said there is widespread concern amongst staff that the Superintendent’s support of the program is fading. Staff liaisons for the program who communicated directly with the Superintendent sensed a change in messaging, according to Grande.
“In the past, the teachers who have been in this liaison role have had very productive and transparent communication with the Superintendent. And part of the concern right now is that the tone shifted,” Grande said. “It felt like he was not really going to fight for us. That’s why [staff] are especially scared. We didn’t get a sense of urgency and concern.”
Guillory said he recognizes that the Non-Resident Tuition Program benefits the families who participate in it and the school community at large. He said he will continue to support the program.
“There is no wavering of commitment. Unfortunately, there’s some misinformation that’s being propagated out there. But there is no backing down from the School Committee nor from my chair in terms of we fully support the materials fee program,” Guillory said.
Teachers remain anxious about the possibility of denial or delay of applications to the Non-Resident Tuition Program. Grande and another staff liaison for the program contacted the Superintendent at the beginning of the summer about the concerns of teachers. The Superintendent did not respond, Grande said.
English teacher Talmadge Nardi said in a letter to the School Committee that it is important the Superintendent is aware of how his actions can affect teachers’ livelihoods.
“I hope that as Dr. Guillory and the [School Committee] make decisions about this program, they will consider the fact that many of us came to Brookline and have stayed here because this program was available,” Nardi said in the statement. “We accepted positions here, turning down offers at other schools because of this program. We chose where to rent or buy a home based on the assumption that we would have access to this program.”
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