Guess Why The Massachusetts Teachers Association Snubbed National Teacher Of The Year

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BOSTON — For the first time since it was created in 1952, an educator from Massachusetts has been named National Teacher of the Year.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, however, is refusing to recognize the teacher, Sydney Chaffee. The likely reason?

Chaffee teaches at Codman Academy, a charter school in Dorchester.

Even though Chaffee bested millions of other American teachers, it turns out she could not overcome a union vote conducted at the 172nd-annual MTA convention, one which saw a majority of members choose in favor of declining to recognize Chaffee’s excellence.

The resolution to honor Chaffee was actually introduced by two retired MTA teachers from Cambridge and Belmont. Keri Rodriguez Lorenzo, a member of the Democratic State Committee, posted a copy of the failed resolution online and noted that the snub “breaks with tradition by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to extend an invitation to the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year to attend and address the body for 20 minutes at their annual convention. (Usually with a stipend and paid hotel room in Boston as well.)”

The resolution, a “new business item,” asked union members to “formally congratulate and recognize” Chaffee by sending her “a written letter of congratulations” and by “recognizing her accomplishment via appropriate social media.”

One of the draftees of the doomed Chaffee resolution, retired Cambridge mathematics teacher Peter Mili, told CommonWealth Magazine he felt “disappointed that, as an organization of educators, we couldn’t for the moment put aside the charter school issue and national politics and just recognize this individual for accomplishments and her work with children.”

Former MTA President Paul Toner, like Rodriguez Lorenzo, noted that the union has always invited the state teacher of the year to speak at each annual convention — until this year, when a charter school teacher won.

“It’s unfortunate that the politics surrounding charter schools led to this outcome,” Toner told the magazine. “Sydney is a teacher, not a politician.

“We should respect all of our teachers.”

An MTA spokesman on Wednesday told New Boston Post that Madeloni, who following Trump’s election victory in November called for public schools statewide to hold a “safe space day,” would not be available for comment.

Rodriguez Lorenzo, however, had plenty to say about Madeloni’s alleged work behind the scenes to squash Mili’s resolution.

“Word on the street is that President Madeloni pulled out all the stops to block the resolution from passing — forcing the item into the new business portion of the meeting when most delegates had already left instead of as pending business as it had been addressed in years past to make sure there was full participation of the body,” Rodriguez Lorenzo wrote. “Barbara apparently even got up and lied to the membership about the Council of Chief State School Officers being a collection of ‘corporate sell-outs’ who selected Sydney because of Question 2 and their love for charter schools/Charlie Baker/Donald Trump.”

Question 2, a ballot question vigorously opposed by MTA members and one that would have increased the state’s cap on the amount of new charter schools allowed to open each year, was defeated by voters on Election Day in November.

Chaffee, who teaches humanities, is known for “leading a class of social justice warriors,” according to a WGBH report.  The WGBH profile explored Chaffee’s teaching of South African apartheid policy, especially her focus on civil rights icon Nelson Mandela.

“For me, education is a tool for social justice,” she told WBUR earlier this year.

Chaffee’s own political views did not stop her from traveling to the White House to be honored by President Donald Trump.

Yet according to multiple reports following the MTA Convention’s vote, politics was the exact reason why the union snubbed efforts to officially recognize Chaffee’s achievement.

Ed Krayewski, an associate editor at, a blog that advocates for “free minds and free markets,” pointed out that while Massachusetts voters may have turned down efforts to lift the state’s charter school cap, teachers unions overall “are losing the long war over parental choice.”

“Petty moves like the MTA’s only reinforce that development,” Krayewski added.

The vote was never mentioned in the MTA’s coverage of their own convention, a 1,200-word recap.

Wrote Rodriguez Lorenzo:

“Here’s a clue:  parents don’t care about your little turf wars and political fiefdoms. We want great teachers. We want great schools that work for our kids. We don’t care what you call the building. We care about what’s happening inside of it — and whether or not our children are going to leave with a foundation of knowledge that prepares them for the future.”

The National Education Association, which bills itself as the largest professional association in the country, will be holding its own annual convention in Boston later this month.

The NEA is one of several organizations tasked with helping to determine teacher of the year awardees.