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All across Massachusetts this week, students and teachers are returning to the classroom for the start of a brand new school year.
One of those teachers is 28-year-old Adam Gray. On June 16, Gray — then a math teacher at South Boston's Monument High School — was named the 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Two weeks later, he was out of work.
Gray lost his job as a result of the Boston School Committee's decision in December to merge or close more than a dozen schools in the city, including Monument, in order to help narrow a $63 million budget gap.
For Gray, the merger plan meant that even though he had taught at Monument for five years, there would not be enough room for him this year when the staff of Monument was combined with the faculty at nearby Excel High School.
Ultimately, "seniority was the reason why I was not retained," Gray said. "It is frustrating."
Gray's case is one that points to the hazards of school reform. Given the budget shortfall that Boston was facing last year, the decision to close some schools and merge others was one that had to be made, Gray said. But, he added, that doesn't always mean that what makes the most sense in fiscal terms is what is necessarily in the best interest of students.
"When students develop these strong bonds with these teachers, and then teachers are displaced — yes, I was required to find a new place of employment," Gray said. "But who got the bad deal on that one? It was the students."
That's not to say there is a simple answer to solving the issue of how best to reform Boston's schools, according to Gray.
One solution, he said, is for educators to be asking themselves, "What can we do better to be more effective, so that all students have access to effective teachers, and all teachers have access to effective leaders?"
Less than three months after losing his job, Gray is now preparing to launch a new phase in his career with a position at Boston Latin School. He said that despite all that has happened to him, he is just as passionate today about teaching as he was when he first entered the classroom.
Gray said he is looking forward to meeting his new students, and to trading new ideas with a whole new set of colleagues. After all, while he may be teacher of the year, Gray said he still has lots to learn.
- Adam Gray, teacher, Boston Latin School
- WBUR Special Coverage: Making An A+ Teacher
This segment aired on September 7, 2011.
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