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Upper School Teachers To Go on Strike

Ms. Barbakow encourages students to use #WheresOurMoney to show solidarity with the teachers’ strike. Photo: Sloan Wyatt

“It’s been in the works for a while,” said English teacher Emily Washburn when asked about the teachers’ recently announced strike. “We just can’t stand it anymore, watching students every day pull up in brand new cars and flaunt their wealth. Where’s our money?”

On Friday, April 6, teachers will gather on the Pace front lawn to picket instead of reporting for class. Their demands include higher salaries, and better hours and working conditions. Among their list of demands, salaries are the most important, according to Dean of Students and math teacher Gus Whyte. “The average teacher in America makes $55,000,” said Mr. Whyte. “This strike should not only be about teachers at Pace; it should be a national message. Teachers are not respected enough for the time and effort they put into classes. Enough is enough.”

Junior dean and English teacher Erica Barbakow is in full agreement. In fact, the idea for the Pace strike first emerged after the successful West Virginia strike that began on Feb. 22. There, teachers state-wide walked out of their classrooms and did not return for two weeks. Through their efforts, they were successful in securing a five per cent pay raise from the state legislature.

“What they did was bold,” said Ms. Barbakow. “They saw a problem and took action. We tell our students to fight for what they believe in; why shouldn’t we do the same?” Heading the walkout alongside Director of Diversity Joanne Brown and Mrs. Washburn, Ms. Barbakow is the face of the strike. “We all decided that she was the assertive, bold image that we needed,” said Mrs. Washburn. “She knows what she wants and she takes it.”

While Ms. Barbakow helped pioneer the strike, registrar and computer science teacher Christina Snyder has played a crucial role with media. Ms. Snyder got the hashtag #WheresOurMoney trending on Twitter and encouraged her computer science students to create advertising. Seniors Ashley Yoffee and Cole McCorkle, both Data Structures students, are leading the student support. “Our teachers do so much for us daily,” said Yoffee. “We have the responsibility to support them as well.”

But not everyone feels the same way. A counter initiative was started within hours of the strike announcement by a group of students and parents. “This is their job,” said junior Caelan Corbally. “By striking, they are harming their reputations and careers along with students’ education. This [strike] will not help anyone.”

Nevertheless, the teachers plan to strike until their demands are met. “We can’t give up,” said Mrs. Brown. “What kind of example would we be setting for our students? Education is important but activism is at the heart of democracy. This [strike] is a greater lesson than can be taught in any classroom.”