Updates From the School Committee

December 1, 2023

Dear Hingham Public Schools Families:

As we have shared with you in previous communications, contract negotiations with the Hingham Education Association (HEA) are ongoing. While the School Committee and union leaders have reached tentative agreements on a number of proposals, several key issues remain unresolved. On behalf of the School Committee, we want to take this opportunity to share with families important information about a topic on which the parties’ proposals are different: salary increases.

First, we want to highlight that we have the deepest respect and gratitude for the educators of the Hingham Public Schools. Every day, they provide outstanding instruction and support to the 3,800 students in our schools. We remain committed to providing all of our employees with a competitive compensation package that will remain in line with compensation offered by our benchmark towns, while also meeting our responsibility to serve as stewards of the Town’s financial resources. This responsibility includes ensuring our employment contracts can be supported by available revenue.

HEA Unit A (Teachers) Update

The School Committee’s latest offer includes an 8.5% salary increase over three years (2.5%, 3%, 3%) for all teachers. That increase (called a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA) would be in addition to automatic annual “step increases” already built into the contract for teachers with fewer than 14 years of service. (See the 2022-2023 Salary Schedule.)

We estimate the total cost of those increases over the life of the contract to be approximately $5.7 million. The proposed increase for the first year is already embedded in the budget for the current school year, supported by the override approved by voters last spring.

More than one-quarter of Hingham teachers are at the highest step on the salary scale (13+ years) and are “M+60” – meaning they have a Master’s degree plus at least 60 graduate credits. Today, these educators earn an annual base salary of $115,174. Under the School Committee’s proposal, these educators’ salaries would increase to $125,242 by July 1, 2025.

The HEA has proposed a higher salary increase for teachers: 19.5% over three years (6%, 6.75%, 6.75%). Those increases would require an additional $3.1 million in the current school year alone, and a total increase of $9.8 million over the life of the contract – $4.1 million higher than the latest School Committee offer. Based on projected revenue and expenses, those increases are simply not viable without increases in the residential property tax rate or reductions in staffing, educational programming, and extracurricular activities.

HEA Unit B (Paraprofessionals) Update

Recognizing the need for a fair wage for our paraprofessionals, the School Committee has proposed an increase to the hourly rate of an average of 27% over three years (19%, 4%, 4%). The total cost of this proposed increase over the three years is approximately $1.3 million.

The HEA has proposed nearly doubling the hourly wage for paraprofessionals over three years, by an average of almost 90%  (43%, 43%, 3.5%) – at an estimated cost of $3.4 million over the three years of the contract. While we acknowledge and are attempting to address the need for increased wages for our paraprofessionals, the increases proposed by the HEA are simply not viable and would require the same property tax increases or reductions in staff, programming, and activities previously noted.

Additional information about the status of collective bargaining, including answers to many Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), is posted on the Contract Negotiations page of the district website.

Please be assured that we will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach agreements that fairly compensate and support our staff, while also maintaining the programs and services that are vital to a Hingham Public Schools education.

Sincerely,

Nes Correnti

School Committee Chair

October 20, 2023

Dear HPS Community,

We recognize that recent communication regarding the HEA’s decision to begin a work to rule action has understandably caused concern within the community, so we are writing to make it clear that the Hingham School Committee and the HEA are working together diligently and in good faith to negotiate a successor contract for all members of the HPS bargaining units.

As current and former parents of HPS students ourselves, the School Committee recognizes and appreciates the dedication and commitment of our HPS faculty and staff. We are fully confident that the professionalism of our staff will ensure that students continue to receive the highest quality education throughout this challenging period.

You have also learned that after several months of bargaining, the School Committee has submitted a request for a mediator to assist in negotiations with our paraprofessionals which would help move past the impasse the School Committee believes we have reached. The Department of Labor Relations is currently reviewing both the School Committee’s request for mediation and the paraprofessionals’ request to continue bargaining without the aid of a mediator. Whichever way the Department of Labor Relations rules, please rest assured that negotiations will continue, and we have every confidence in achieving a fair and equitable contract.

We may sit on opposite sides of the negotiating table from the HEA but please be assured that the School Committee’s goal is to ensure the best education for all Hingham students and ensure a fair and equitable contract that adheres to the budget approved at Town Meeting.

As always, the School Committee is here to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Please feel free to reach out at any time. Personally, I am always happy to meet for coffee to discuss any concerns. 

In addition, we will commence office hours this Monday, October 23 at 8:00 PM, Room 103 at Hingham High School. 

Sincerely, 

Nes Correnti

Hingham School Committee Chair

617-413-5662

ncorrenti@hinghamschools.org

October 17, 2023

Subject: A Message From the School Committee

Dear Hingham Public Schools Families,

We are writing to you today to update you on the status of contract negotiations with the Hingham Education Association (HEA), more commonly referred to as the teachers union. The School Committee has been working with the HEA since February of 2023 to reach a fair contract for all Hingham Public Schools (HPS) teachers. In the 10 negotiation meetings, the School Committee and union have tentatively reached 22 agreements.

Despite the progress made in the last eight months, we have received notification that the HEA has instructed their teacher members to enter into a “Work to Rule” action as a strategy to negotiate the contract. This strategy means that the union is directing its members to refuse duties that are not specifically mentioned in their contract. Union leadership typically employs this tactic to reduce student interactions and after-school support in order to pressure the School Committee.

As a reminder, our teachers are salaried employees. Unlike hourly workers, their obligations do not end at the completion of the school day. We are deeply disappointed with this negotiation strategy, as it directly impacts all of our students.

As always, the School Committee is committed to providing all HPS students with a quality education, and we are grateful for the outstanding work of our teachers. We continue to bargain in good faith with the six remaining HPS employee bargaining units, including the teachers union. We are eager to reach a fair and financially sustainable contract as soon as possible. For more information about our negotiation progress, please visit our website

Sincerely,

Nes Correnti

Hingham School Committee Chair

September 25, 2023

Dear HPS Families and Staff:

On behalf of the Hingham School Committee, I am delighted to welcome you to a new school year! We are grateful to our families, students, and staff for a successful back-to-school season, and we look forward to a great year ahead.

The School Committee is responsible for ensuring a safe, supportive learning and working environment for our students and staff. One of our most important responsibilities is to negotiate and ratify contracts with each of our employee associations. We know that in order to attract and retain outstanding staff in the Hingham Public Schools, we must negotiate fair contracts that foster good working conditions and compensate our professionals appropriately for the critical work they undertake every day.

You may have begun to hear about ongoing negotiations with many of our labor unions, including the units represented by the Hingham Education Association (HEA). The School Committee is engaged in collective bargaining with union leaders representing teachers, paraeducators, some administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, and school bus drivers. Our teachers and paraeducators are working under three-year contracts ratified in June 2020, which remain in effect until new contracts are approved. Some employee groups have been engaged in negotiations since December 2022, while others are just getting underway. We have reached tentative agreement on many of the proposals that our teachers and paraeducators value, and we will continue to negotiate a compensation package that reflects our commitment to competitive salaries and benefits for our dedicated faculty and staff. At the same time, we take very seriously our responsibility to negotiate contracts within the fiscal constraints facing our town. 

In the weeks ahead, we will provide the community with important updates on these contract negotiations. You can find preliminary information on our website about the financial context in which we are operating.

Every member of the School Committee recognizes the talent, hard work, and dedication of our educators and support staff. We are confident that if we remain at the negotiating table with an unwavering commitment to our students, families, and taxpayers, we will reach agreement and move forward together. Thank you for your continued support of the Hingham Public Schools!

Sincerely,

Nes Correnti

School Committee Chair

The Hingham School Committee has been engaged in ongoing negotiations with the Hingham Education Association (HEA) Unit B (paraprofessionals) since December 2022 and with the HEA Unit A (teachers) since February 2023.

The Hingham School Committee is the body elected by Hingham citizens, whose responsibilities include working with our employee bargaining units to reach agreement on fair, equitable, and financially sustainable contracts. Five of the seven collective bargaining units in the Hingham Public Schools are currently working under contracts that run from May 2020 through August 31, 2023, and the terms of those contracts remain in effect if new contracts are not ratified after that date. 

Teachers (HEA Unit A):

The school committee began meeting with Unit A in February 2023. The School Committee and Unit A have reached more than 30 tentative agreements. However, the parties have not reached agreement on key issues.

Salary/Wages

The School Committee’s latest offer includes an 11.5% salary increase over four years (2.5%, 3%, 3%, 3%) for all teachers. That increase (called a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA) would be in addition to automatic annual “step and lane increases” already built into the contract for teachers with fewer than 14 years of service. (See the 2022-2023 Salary Schedule. The proposed increase for the first year is already embedded in the budget for the current school year, supported by the override approved by voters last spring.

More than one-quarter of Hingham teachers are at the highest step on the salary scale (13+ years) and are “M+60” – meaning they have a Master’s degree plus at least 60 graduate credits. Today, these educators earn an annual base salary of $115,174. Under the School Committee’s proposal, these educators’ salaries would increase to $128,999 by July 1, 2025.

The HEA has proposed a higher salary increase for teachers: 18.75% over three years (6%, 6.25%, 6.5%). Those increases would require approximately an additional $3.1 million in the current school year alone, and a total increase of $9.3 million over the life of the contract – approximately $3.5 million higher than the latest School Committee offer. Based on projected revenue and expenses, those increases are simply not viable without increases in the residential property tax rate or reductions in staffing, educational programming, and extracurricular activities.

Parental Leave

Additionally, the Committee has proposed 60 days of paid parental leave for all parents:

  • Current benefit: access to up to 10 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2023-2024 School Year: access to up to 60 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2024- 2025 School Year: 2 weeks of leave paid by the district and access to 50 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2025-2026 School Year: 4 weeks of leave paid by the district and access to 40 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2026-2027 School Year: 8 weeks of paid leave by the district and access to 20 days of accrued paid sick leave

The union initially proposed 8 weeks of leave paid by the district with access to four weeks of accrued sick time and has not moved on this proposal.

Paraprofessionals (HEA Unit B):

The School Committee met with Unit B first on December 7, 2022. The parties have tentatively agreed to improve certain benefits and working conditions, including:

  • Additional days off
  • Paid time for enhanced professional development
  • Paid time to collaborate with educators
  • Opportunities to work additional hours to increase overall take-home wages 

Recognizing the need for a fair wage for our paraprofessionals, the Committee also factored in a cost of living adjustment for paraprofessionals during the FY ‘24 override budget process.  The School Committee has proposed an increase to the hourly rate of an average of 27% over three years (19%, 4%, 4%). The total cost of this proposed increase over the three years is approximately $1.3 million. This pay increase would result in competitive wages with surrounding districts.

The HEA has proposed nearly doubling the hourly wage for paraprofessionals over three years, by an average of almost 90%  (43%, 43%, 3.5%) – at an estimated cost of $3.4 million over the three years of the contract. While we acknowledge and are attempting to address the need for increased wages for our paraprofessionals, the increases proposed by the HEA are simply not viable and would require the same property tax increases or reductions in staff, programming, and activities previously noted.

Next Steps

While the Committee and the Union have reached tentative agreements on a number of proposals, it is clear that we are still far apart on a few critical issues, mainly wages, and that progress has stalled. The Committee requested the assistance of an independent, third mediator skilled at negotiations through the Department of Labor Relations (DLR). The DLR agreed that an impasse exists and has assigned a mediator. The first mediation session is scheduled for January 5, 2024

The Committee’s goal is to move the process forward to reach agreement on a fair and sustainable contract as soon as possible so that our paraprofessionals start receiving additional benefits and higher wages provided by a new contract.

Custodian and Maintenance Workers Contract (HEA Unit C)

After six meetings, beginning in late September of 2023, the Salary & Negotiations Subcommittee and HEA Unit C (HPS Custodians and Maintenance Workers) reached a tentative agreement on a 2023-2026 successor contract. On December 27, 2023 the union unanimously ratified the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), and on December 28, the School Committee, along with Select Board representative Joe Fisher, unanimously approved the MOA. Now that the agreement is ratified, Unit C members will receive retroactive pay and agreed upon benefits under the new agreement.Key points in the MOA:

  • Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAS) increased by 8.5% over the life of the contract: (2.5%/3%/3%)
  • Space and accommodation for employees to pump and safely store breast milk
  • An increase in tuition reimbursement for courses taken at an accredited college or university, or for the cost of programs required to obtain or maintain a professional license related with their employment
  • Up to three paid days for religious leave per school year 
  • Clarification about the protective equipment and training, and material provided for the safety of employees, as well as a way to request additional staff to assist with a job if needed for safety.
  • Adds long term substitutes (employees who have worked at least 6 consecutive months in a bargaining unit position) to the contract
    • Long term subs receive a limited number of benefits: sick time, personal days, and paid holidays
    • Substitute pay rate is not subject to bargaining and can be changed by the School Committee at any time

Administrative Assistants (HEA Unit D)

HEA Unit D is composed of the Administrative Assistants who work in each school building as well as in the Central Office. The School Committee and Unit D are negotiating a brand new contract as this is a new bargaining unit. The parties began collective bargaining in late August 2023 and have reached a number of tentative agreements. The Committee and Unit D continue to work towards agreements on wages and job classifications, among other proposals.

Bus and Van Drivers

The School Committee held two sessions to negotiate a successor contract with the Bus and Van Drivers union. The parties came to a tentative agreement on a new contract, which was ratified by the union, and then by the School Committee on October 16, 2023. The new contract is in effect upon ratification and the HPS Bus & Van Drivers Association members will receive retroactive pay and benefits under the new agreement.

Administrators – Unit AA

The school committee has reached out to Unit AA to begin negotiations. The School Committee is currently waiting on dates from Unit AA.

Cafeteria Managers and Food Service Technicians

The union has requested to begin collective bargaining regarding a successor (2024-2027) contract. The School Committee has requested available dates to begin negotiations.

Process

What is the collective bargaining process?

  • The School Committee and the HEA agree upon ground rules to guide the negotiations.
  • Once ground rules are set, each party presents proposals that include changes that they wish to make in the existing contract, including adjustments to salary and benefits. These items are usually presented within the first two or three meetings, followed by counter proposals and discussion. 
  • Once the parties reach a tentative agreement it is subject to ratification by the union membership and approval by the full School Committee, including a representative of the Hingham Select Board.  After ratification and approval, the agreement becomes effective. If a contract has expired, members will receive wages and benefits agreed to under the new contract retroactively upon ratification.

Who can I speak with about this process?

The School Committee is always here to answer any questions or concerns of any Hingham Community member. Please feel free to reach out at any time.

Are members of the public able to observe the negotiations? 

Like all other Hingham town departments, the school committee and the unions have always engaged in a traditional collective bargaining process. This means that bargaining sessions are conducted in executive sessions, which are confidential by law.

The reason for confidentiality is to promote open discussion between the bargaining teams to help the parties reach agreement. The vast majority of school committees in Massachusetts conduct confidential negotiations with their unions. 

The Committee also understands that the community is interested in the progress of negotiations. Consequently, the Committee will update the public as frequently as possible during our full School Committee meetings.

Recordings of past meetings are available on 

Who does the Hingham Education Association (HEA) represent?

The HEA represents five of the seven HPS bargaining units. HEA Unit A consists of all classroom teachers, special education teachers, specialized teaching personnel, guidance counselors, resource teachers/coordinators, school psychologists, adjustment counselors, health coordinators, librarians/media specialists, Title I teachers, and nurses.

HEA Unit B represents paraprofessionals. HEA Unit C represents our custodians. HEA Unit D represents most of the administrative assistants who work in the school buildings and in Central Office.

The HEA does not represent the HPS Bus and Van Drivers Association, Food Services staff, Unit AA, which represents the Assistant Principals and Department Directors, and other administrators and employees with individual contracts with the district.

Who is on the negotiating teams for the Hingham Education Association (HEA)? 

The HEA selects a team of bargaining unit members for its negotiating teams, and is typically represented by a negotiator from the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). The MTA is a statewide organization that provides support and legal representation to member unions.

Who is on the negotiating team for the Hingham School Committee? 

Kerry Ni, Michelle Ayer, and Tim Miller-Dempsey represent the School Committee with support from the superintendent and others. The negotiating team is represented in negotiations by an attorney from the law firm of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane.

Are School Committee members paid?

No. The seven members of the committee are volunteers who are elected by Hingham voters to oversee the running of the Hingham Public Schools. They don’t receive any compensation, payments, or stipends for their time. School committee members often dedicate 10-35 hours each week to the vital operations of the school district. 

Compensation

Teachers

What salary increases have each party proposed for teachers in the new contract?

The school committee began meeting with Unit A in February 2023. The School Committee and Unit A have reached more than 30 tentative agreements. However, the parties have not reached agreement on key issues related to compensation.

The School Committee’s latest offer includes an 8.5% salary increase over three years (2.5%, 3%, 3%) for all teachers. That increase (called a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA) would be in addition to automatic annual “step increases” already built into the contract for teachers with fewer than 14 years of service. (See the 2022-2023 Salary Schedule.)

We estimate the total cost of those increases over the life of the contract to be approximately $5.7 million. The proposed increase for the first year is already embedded in the budget for the current school year, supported by the override approved by voters last spring.

More than one-quarter of Hingham teachers are at the highest step on the salary scale (13+ years) and are “M+60” – meaning they have a Master’s degree plus at least 60 graduate credits. Today, these educators earn an annual base salary of $115,174. Under the School Committee’s proposal, these educators’ salaries would increase to $125,242 by July 1, 2025.

The HEA has proposed a higher salary increase for teachers: 19.25% over three years (6%, 6.5%, 6.75%). Those increases would require approximately an additional $3.1 million in the current school year alone, and a total increase of $9.8 million over the life of the contract – approximately $4 million higher than the latest School Committee offer. Based on projected revenue and expenses, those increases are simply not viable without increases in the residential property tax rate or reductions in staffing, educational programming, and extracurricular activities.

What is the average salary of Hingham teachers?

The average teacher salary in Hingham in 2022 was $102,031. The table below is from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education RADAR tool (Resource Allocation and District Action Reports).

How do salaries for Hingham teachers compare to those in similar communities?

To reflect the value the town of Hingham places on public education, Hingham teacher salaries are in line with teacher salaries compared to our benchmark towns.

What is the difference between STEP, Lane and COLA?

Teachers receive compensation as outlined in the negotiated salary schedule. The salary schedule for teachers is organized by Steps, Lanes and COLA. 

  • Step are the number of years an individual has been teaching.
  • Lane = level of education
  • COLA = a Cost of Living Adjustment increase applied to the entire salary annually

See link for the 2022-2023 salary schedule. 

See link for the 2023-2026 salary schedule proposals from the School Committees and HEA.


The majority of the teachers in Hingham fall at the last step, 51%. See link for the 2023-2024 distribution of staff along steps and lanes.

What is longevity? How does it factor into a teacher’s salary? 

Longevity is a lump sum payment provided to employees with 15 years of service in the district. 

The School Committee has offered as part of a package longevity payment increases of $500 for years two and three of the contract. 

2023-2024 2024-2025 SY
2025-2026 SY 
At least 15 years, but less than 20 years$2150$2,650
At least 20 years, but less than 25 years$2750$3,250
At least 25 years, but less than 30 years $3100$3,600
30 years or more $2950 $3,950

How does longevity compare with other benchmark districts?

The following table is based on data for the 2023-2024 school year for benchmark districts. 

DistrictYears to First LevelYears to Highest LevelFirst Level of LongevityHighest Level of Longevity
Andover1625$300$1,000
Braintree1530$1,000$3,700
Canton1215$14,50$3,500
Cohasset1525$1,000$1,500
Concord1029$2,000$5,600
Concord-Carlisle 1030$2,042$6,128
Dedham1426$2,050$2,250
Hingham*1530$2,150$2,950
Lexington1030$800$2,600
Milton1020$1,350$1,850
Needham1530$1,100$2,500
Rockland1129$2,800$4,700
Wellesley2020$3,499$3,499
Weston1525$1,600$2,100
Weymouth1525$1,529$3,881
Winchester1025$500$2,000
Average1327$1,531$3,117

*Based on 2022-2023 contract. 

Norwell, Scituate and Carlisle do not have longevity as a benefit. 

How are HPS staff’s health insurance contributions determined?

The employer/employee share of health insurance premiums is not specified in the contract. Health insurance rates for all Hingham employees are the same. Any change in the percentages paid by employees would have to be negotiated with the Town of Hingham. If you would like to see how Hingham compares to benchmark districts, click here.

What unfilled positions does HPS have?

The district has no unfilled teaching positions. The only teaching positions that we are currently hiring for are long-term substitutes for teachers on leave.

Paraprofessionals

The HEA has claimed that paraeducators do not earn a living wage, and some are “living in poverty.” Is that true?

This language comes from a living wage calculator created by a professor at MIT, which estimates what a “living wage” is in counties across the country, based on multiple factors. 

The calculator is based on a full-time, 40 hour/week, 52 weeks per year work schedule (or 2,080 hours).

Comparatively, our paraprofessionals work approximately 52% of what is considered full-time working 181 days out of the year (1,086 hours in elementary schools and 1,177 hours in secondary school).

Unlike teachers, who have responsibilities outside of the school days, paras do not.

In addition, paraprofessionals have 10 paid holidays and two personal days.

Do paraprofessionals work 6+ hours with no breaks?

No. Under the current contract, paraeducators who work five hours or more are entitled to paid breaks (30 minutes at the elementary level and 24 minutes at the secondary level). 

Are paraeducators asked to substitute without compensation?

While paraeducators may be asked to cover a class for a short period, anyone who is asked to sub for a full day is compensated.

Are paraeducators compensated for holidays?

Yes. Paraprofessionals receive 10 paid holidays per school year. They also receive two paid personal days.

How many paraeducators does the district need?

The number of paraprofessionals needed by the district has varied throughout the school year. As of January 29th, the district needed one paraprofessional at Foster and one at South. The middle school has a need for 2.5 positions. The high school had 2 unfilled positions.

Budget

Was an increase in compensation factored into the override?

We planned for wage increases and equity adjustments for all bargaining units, but not the proposed wage demands from the teachers union and paraprofessionals union. 

Proposition 2 1/2 limits our ability to raise taxes, so any contracts must be sustainable.

Agreeing to the union’s current wage demands would result in cuts to positions, programs, and services that directly impact students.

Why can’t the town use “free cash” to pay for the HEA’s proposed salary increases?

Any funds that support salaries must be sustainable from year to year, such as funds collected through property taxes.

“Free cash” referred to as Unassigned Fund Balance in Hingham, is a municipal finance term representing the amount of a community’s funds that are unrestricted and available for appropriation. Free cash is a nonrecurring (“one-time”) revenue source and should not be used for recurring expenses such as salaries.

Using a one-time withdrawal from the Unassigned Fund Balance to cover recurring expenses such as annual salary increases can lead to consistent budget shortfalls. This might require raising taxes to maintain services, cutting back on programs/services, or implementing layoffs.


Please visit the town website for a more detailed explanation of Unassigned Fund Balance or “free cash”: https://www.hingham-ma.gov/383/Financial-Policy

What is a “sustainable budget”?

The town defines “Sustainable” as a financial forecast that uses realistic assumptions for revenue and expenditure growth that allow the Town to 1) provide services that meet residents’ expectations, and 2) meet ongoing expenditure obligations through regularly occurring revenues. 

Why can’t the town allocate money towards salary increases instead of a town pool or property by the harbor?

Both of these projects were approved by the voters of Hingham at Town Meeting and will be funded by borrowed money which will be paid back over time. (Funding salaries through borrowed money is not responsible budgeting.)

The pool would replace an existing pool, which has become unusable. Maintaining a pool at the town-owned South Shore Country Club will maintain or increase the revenue generated by the Country Club. This project will be funded by Community Preservation funds ($550,000), which are not available for employee salaries, and an $8 million debt exclusion, which is borrowed money to be repaid over time.

The purpose of the property purchase was in part, to potentially give the Town some control over the future height of the seawall, which could be of benefit to the Town’s effort to address rising sea levels. The property was purchased through borrowed funds that will be paid back over a period of up to 30 years.   

What is the property purchased by the town near the harbor? How is it funded? What is the purpose?

In April 2023, Town Meeting authorized the Select Board to acquire by purchase the property located at 30 Summer Street, Hingham​.

After completing due diligence, the Select Board voted to purchase 30 Summer Street on November 7, 2023.  Town Meeting authorized the Select Board to borrow up to $1,550,000 for the purchase (within the levy) and the final amount included in the bonds is $1,545,415.  It will be paid back over 20 years.​  Unassigned fund balance was not used for the purchase.  

The Town is exploring several potential uses for the property, including municipal use, public recreation, and potentially private rental use to recover some of the acquisition costs.   

What new administrators were added to the school district? 

  • A Fine and Performing Arts Curriculum Director was added during the FY23 budget cycle. The purpose was to ensure leadership and growth of the arts programming in the district. 
  • In FY22, two new special education administrators were added. The purpose was to provide leadership at the school level to help build programming and strengthen special education processes and procedures. 
  • In FY20, a Director of Human Resources was hired to strengthen the hiring, onboarding, and services provided to employees.

What new administrators have been added to the town level?

  • In FY22, the town added an additional assistant town administrator. 
  • In FY22, he town did add other positions including a police mental health clinician, a senior planner in community development, and an additional staff member for the transfer station. 
  • In FY24 through the override, the town added four firefighters, an assistant town engineer, a senior center program coordinator, and a sustainability coordinator. The administrative assistant to the Veteran Affairs Office was increased from part-time to full-time. 

How does Hingham compare with other districts in the number of administrators?

  • For the 2022-2023 school year, Hingham had 30.6 administrators. 

For the 2022-2023 school year, the number of administrators per 100 students was in line with a list of comparable districts. Hingham had an average of .8 administrators per 100 students. 

Class Size and Caseloads

What is the average class size in Hingham at the elementary level? 

As of October 2023, the average class size at the elementary level was 1 teacher for every twenty students. 

GradeEastFosterPRSSouthTotal
Kindergarten21 (3 classes)21 (3 classes)14.66 (3 classes)18 (4 classes)18.67 (13 classes)
Grade One21.25 (4 classes)22(3 classes) 17.5 (4 classes)21 (4 classes) 20.43 (15 classes)
Grade Two19.75 (4 classes)18 (3 classes) 19 (3 classes)23.25 (4 classes) 20 (14 classes)
Grade Three23.33 (3 classes)22 (3 classes)19.6 (3 classes)19.5 (4 classes) 21.11 (13 classes)
Grade Four19.25 (4 classes)19.25 (4 classes)22 (3 classes)19.75 (4 classes)20.06 (15 classes)
Grade Five18 (4 classes) 21.67 (3) 20.67 (3 classes) 17.4 (4 classes) 19.44 (14 classes) 
Total 20.9 (22 classes)21.1 (19 classes)18.5 (19 classes) 19.6 (24 classes)19.9 (84 classes) 

What is the average class size at the middle and high school?

As of October 2023, the average class sizes for the middle school and high school by department are outlined below. 

DepartmentHingham Middle SchoolHingham High School
ELA18.2 (45 sections-includes 4 STEM/Lit sections)18.9 (71 sections)
Family and Consumer Science16.1 (34 sections)14.9 (18 sections)
Health13.9 (40 sections)19.6 (14 sections)
History18.6 (32 sections)16.9 (80 sections)
Math15.1 (44 sections)17.0 (72 sections)
Math Lab6.1 (14 sections)NA
Physical Education17.0 ( 48 sections)19.2 (18 sections)
Reading Lab/Specialized Reading11.8 (27 sections)4 (2 sections)
Science19.3 (32 sections)19.8 (60 sections)
Science LabNA15.9 (9 sections)
Technology15.9 (34 sections)7.2 (29 sections)
World Language14.5  (51 sections)15.2 (65 sections)
Visual and Performing Arts 16.8 (75 sections)15.3 (24 sections)

What are the current special education caseloads? 

The caseloads for special education teachers as of October 1, 2023:

  • The East average special education staff-to-student ratio is 1 to 12.8 students.
  • The Foster average special education staff-to-student ratio is 1 to 18.2 students. 
  • The South average special education staff-to-student ratio is 1 to 12.2 students. 
  • The PRS average special education staff-to-student ratio is 1 to 14.5 students. 
  • HMS average special education staff-to-student ratio is 1 to 1 to 18 students. 
  • HHS average special education staff to student ratio is 1 to 1 to 15.6 students.

Other Proposals

The HEA is proposing adding class size limits to the contract. What has been the School Committee’s response to that proposal?

The School Committee has a Class Size Policy, which delineates class size limits at each grade level. Therefore it is unnecessary to include any cap in class sizes in employment contracts.

It is important to note that Hingham Public Schools maintains relatively small class sizes that are typically below the limits established in the policy.  The average class size is approximately 20 students in elementary school, 15.2 students in middle school, and 15.3 students in high school.

What proposals have been presented regarding parental leave?

Below is the most recent proposal from the School Committee.

60 Days of Paid Parental Leave For All Parents

  • Current benefit: access to up to 10 days of accrued paid sick leave for non-birth parents. Birth parents have access to accured sick leave.
  • 2023-2024 School Year: access to up to 60 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2024- 2025 School Year: 2 weeks of leave paid by the district and access to 50 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2025-2026 School Year: 4 weeks of leave paid by the district and access to 40 days of accrued paid sick leave
  • 2026-2027 School Year: 8 weeks of paid leave by the district and access to 20 days of accrued paid sick leave

Currently, staff may access to up to 10 days of accrued paid sick leave for non-birth parents. Birth parents have access to accrued sick leave, up to 12 weeks under FMLA.

What do other districts offer for parental leave?

  • Andover and Cambridge offer 8 weeks of parental leave paid by the district. 
  • Canton, Sharon, Randolph, North Andover, and Lexington offer 4 weeks of parental leave paid by the district. 
  • Brookline offers 12 days of parental leave paid by the district.
  • Several districts, including Norfolk, Amesbury, Nashoba, North Adams, Northborough, Northborough-Southborough, and Mount Greylock, offer 10 days of paid parental leave.

Special Education

What are the proposals made by the HEA that relate to special education? 

The HEA has proposed a new provision that students with disabilities (those on Individual Education Plans or 504 plans) cannot make up more than half of a classroom unless all parents/guardians and teachers are notified. For context, students on these plans might have a peanut allergy or diabetes, a broken leg, a mild to severe learning disability, autism, or may need assistive devices, such as a wheelchair, or other disability. Their educational needs vary widely. Additionally, the HEA has proposed that if more than four students require inclusion paraprofessional support, the teacher can request additional paraprofessionals, and the district will be required to make every effort to provide them. 

The School Committee has stated that introducing a mandatory cap on the number of students with learning and health needs in a contract would interfere with state and federal laws, which require that IEP and 504 teams determine appropriate placement. As parents (and students at the secondary level) are part of the IEP and 504 teams, one of the committee’s concerns is the dilution of student and parent input in the IEP/504 process. Teachers are also involved in team meetings and have the opportunity to describe needed student support. The decisions for the services a student needs are based on testing, student performance, and available resources as guided by both federal and state laws. 

There are other mechanisms in federal and state law and the current contract that allow teachers to alert the district and work towards a solution if they feel like they or their students are not receiving the necessary support.

Notifying parents/guardians when a general education classroom is above a certain threshold may also violate students’ privacy rights under state and federal laws.

Do special education teachers have a caseload cap?

The district will make reasonable efforts in case loads for special education teachers at 20 and related service providers(speech/OT/PT) at 40. 

I heard there is a paraprofessional crisis and that special education students are losing out on essential services. Is that true?

No. The district has some openings for paraprofessionals in some school buildings. The number can vary as new staff are hired. A limited number of students are impacted, and the district is actively communicating with their families and working toward solutions. It is important to note that the district is unable to pay paraprofessionals a higher wage until both parties agree upon a contract. The school committee has proposed a paraprofessional wage scale that is competitive on the South Shore. The ratification of a contract will improve the district’s ability to hire paraprofessionals.

If necessary, substitutes may fill special education paraprofessional gaps to support the continuity of services for students on IEPs or 504s. Special education teachers may also support students within classrooms. 

In the long term, the district is taking several steps to ensure that students receive the paraprofessional support that they need. First, the district is conducting a program evaluation of the special education program to assess further the use of paraprofessionals and how to support special education students better. Second, HMS will plan earlier in the year, over this winter and spring, to create a schedule that ensures that the needs of students who receive special education services are met through the best utilization of staff and resources. Finally, the district conducted hiring fairs this fall to fill paraprofessional gaps creatively. The district has also used multiple platforms, including LinkedIn, Indeed, Schoolspring, and Handshake, to reach potential applicants.

Potential Union Job Actions

What is “Work to Rule”?

Work to Rule means that union members may refuse duties that are not specifically mentioned in their contract. Union leadership typically employs this tactic to reduce student interactions and after-school support in order to pressure the School Committee.

What happens if the parties can’t reach an agreement?

Mediation: If the parties bargain in good faith but are unable to reach agreement after a reasonable period of negotiation, the parties are at “impasse.”  At that point, either party or both parties acting jointly may petition the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) for a determination of impasse. The DLR then assigns an independent third-party mediator to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. The role of the mediator is to facilitate an agreement. Agreements reached in mediation are non-binding and are still subject to ratification by the union membership and approval by the School Committee.

Fact finding: If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step in resolving an impasse is fact-finding.  The parties select a factfinder from a list provided by the DLR. 

  • The factfinder holds a hearing(s) where the parties present their proposals, positions, and information, including relevant data about the District’s resources and comparable districts. 
  • The factfinder then issues a confidential report with findings of fact.  This report may or may not include recommendations. 
  • The parties receive copies of the report and are required to return to negotiations informed by the report. 
  • If the parties do not reach agreement within ten days from the issuance of the report, the DLR will release the report to the public.  If the parties are still unable to reach agreement, the employer informs the DLR, which either sends the parties back to mediation or finds the employer has satisfied its bargaining obligations, which permits the employer to implement its last best on the record offer.

Can the HEA strike if no agreement is reached? 

While teachers unions in some towns have used this illegal tactic, it is against the law for public employees in Massachusetts to strike.  Massachusetts General Laws chapter 150E section 9A provides:

  • (a) No public employee or employee organization shall engage in a strike, and no public employee or employee organization shall induce, encourage, or condone any strike, work stoppage, slowdown, or withholding of services by such public employees.
  • (b) Whenever a strike occurs or is about to occur, the employer shall petition the commission to make an investigation. If, after investigation, the commission determines that any provision of paragraph (a) of this section has been or is about to be violated, it shall immediately set requirements that must be complied with, including, but not limited to, instituting appropriate proceedings in the superior court for the county wherein such violation has occurred or is about to occur for enforcement of such requirements.

What happens if a teachers’ union goes on strike?

For student safety, school would need to be canceled. The missed days would be added to the end of the school year. 

If a union were to go on strike, the Department of Labor Relations would order the union to cease the strike and request employees to return to work.  If a union does not comply with the DLR’s order, the DLR will seek judicial enforcement of its order. Failure to comply with a judicial order subjects the union to contempt charges and large fines.

What is a “vote of no confidence”?

On December 11, 2023, the Hingham Education Association took a vote of “no confidence” in the Superintendent. Such a vote is typically a statement by a majority of the union members voting that they do not support the leader of the organization.