Note: If your association would like to schedule a retirement workshop at your school, your
local president should call Harold Crowley at 800.392.6175, ext. 8240. Please be aware that
the M TA consultants do not have records of your service, so members are advised to bring
that information along to meetings.
AUBURN — Edward Nelson: first Saturday of
each month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Central Office,
48 Sword St., Auburn; 508.791.2121, or at home,
QUINC Y — Harold Crowley: Tuesdays, Wednesdays
and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., M TA, 2 Heritage
Drive, 9th Floor, Quincy; 617.878.8240 or
800.392.6175, ext. 8240.
CAPE COD — Lawrence Abbruzzi: second Saturday
of each month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Barnstable Teachers
Association (B TA), 100 West Main St., Suite #7,
Hyannis; 508.775.8625, or at home, 508.824.9194.
FI TCHBURG — Karen Melanson: second Saturday
of each month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fitchburg Teachers
Association office, 245 River St., Fitchburg; call
HOLYOKE — Ron Lech: third Saturday of each
month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Western Office, 55
Bobala Road, Suite 3, Holyoke; 413.537.2335, or at
LYNNFIELD — Peter Mili: third Saturday of each
month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Northeast Office, 50
Salem St., Building B, Lynnfield; call 617.460.6589.
Barbara Callaghan: fourth Saturday of each month,
9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Northeast Office, 50 Salem St.,
Building B, Lynnfield; call 978.456.9997.
PI T TSFIELD — Ward F. Johnson: second Saturday
of each month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Berkshire
Office, 188 East St., Pittsfield; 413.499.0257, or at
RAYNHAM — Raymond Thompson: third Saturday
of each month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., M TA Southeast
Office, 756 Orchard Street, third floor, Raynham.
Call Thompson at 617.347.4425.
HIGHER EDUCATION AT-LARGE — Edward McCourt,
The M TA provides individual retirement consultations throughout the
state to assist members. Proof of membership must be submitted when
requesting retirement services. This schedule is in effect from September
to June except at MTA’s Quincy headquarters, which is staffed during the
summer and school vacations.
REGIONAL RETIREMENT CONSULTATIONS AVAILABLE
All consultations are now by appointment only during the hours listed.
By Jean Conley
E ducation support professionals are taking the lead on school garden projects that promote
hands-on learning for students, thanks
to new Farm to School grants recently
awarded to local associations around
The National Education
Association awarded $11,750 for the
projects, which will allow six locals
— the Franklin Education Association,
the Granby Educators Association, the
Leicester Paraprofessional Association,
the Quabbin Regional School District
Paraprofessionals Association, the
Randolph Education Association and
the Shrewsbury Paraprofessionals
Association — to begin or expand
projects at their schools.
The ESPs will work with members
of the Massachusetts Horticultural
Society, which will provide advice and
Massachusetts has become a
model for other states in the creation
of learning gardens, and ESPs are in
a unique position to offer them as an
educational opportunity. Because many
ESPs provide one-to-one assistance
to special education students every
day, they are often the educators most
attuned to their students’ needs.
Kathy West, an instructional
paraprofessional at the Leicester
Primary School and president of the
Leicester Paraprofessional Association,
said she was “very excited” when her
two-year-old 55-to-60-person local
received its first Farm to School grant
“This is all new to us,” West said.
“We look forward to expanding on this
program and getting it up and running
again.” West said that while her
school is the smallest in the district,
it has the heaviest concentration of
paraprofessionals due to the large
number of special education students
Students formerly participated
in a community garden near the
school, but it was too far away and
time management became an issue.
The grant opens the possibility of
constructing a garden right behind the
school, with paver stones installed
to form a path for students who use
West noted that Michele Connor,
the occupational therapist at her
school and a fellow MTA member, has
been a “gung-ho” leader in creating
opportunities for students with
learning disabilities — and that the
association’s grant comes at just the
right time, as the district is grappling
with budget issues.
In May, members of the NEA
and the NEA Foundation visited a
well-established learning garden at
Haverhill High School that has become
a model for districts around the
That project, the brainchild of
2017 Massachusetts ESP of the Year
Nancy Burke, began half a dozen years
ago with a single raised garden bed.
With careful tending by Burke and
her fellow ESPs — along with dozens
of student, parent and community
volunteers — the garden has grown
into what it is now: an important and
thriving outdoor learning laboratory
for special education students in the
school’s life skills program.
The space includes an irrigation
system, a weather station, Braille
plant markers and an array of raised
beds where the students plant, tend
and harvest their crops. The students’
produce has won ribbons at the
Topsfield Agricultural Fair.
W est said she looks forward to taking on a project that will help others recognize
the evolving roles of ESPs.
“There’s a new kind of mindset
now,” she said. “Paraprofessionals are
no longer just a helping pair of hands.
Getting this money is a way of saying,
‘Hey, we’re really serious about our
jobs. We’re in it for the kids.’”
That sense of pulling together
— for the students and for each other
as paraprofessionals — is key. “We
wouldn’t have this opportunity if it
weren’t for the strength of our union,”
said West. “We can’t do this alone.
We need everyone in. We can’t run
our union, stand up for our rights or
To find out more about the Farm
to School program and apply for a
grant, call MTA ESP organizer Audra
Makuch at 617.878.8260.
use a Farm to School
grant to expand on a
gardening program at
the Leicester Primary
Connor, center, has
been a leader in
for students with
Gathered around her,
from left to right, are
Kristin Schimke, Erin
Dominy and Kathy
Photo by Bob Duffy