WORCESTER - Michael Patrick Lyons has been working in the Worcester school department for the past 15 years.
And anyone that knows him, knows that Lyons hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind during his time with Worcester Public Schools [WPS].
Lyons, the after school administrator for Canterbury elementary school in Worcester and student liaison for WPS’ Home & Hospital program, is one of four candidates for the position of Educational Association of Worcester [EAW] president.
The EAW -- the Worcester teachers’ union -- will hold an election from May 3-9.
“Several colleagues over the past year and a half approached me about running. I had never considered it before then. The teachers in this union are highly-educated and qualified professionals and I believe we need to be represented accordingly,” Lyons said in a recent interview with ThisWeekinWorcester.com [TWIW].
“As a union of 2,500 members, we deserve our concerns to be addressed proactively, rather than re-actively,” he added.
Lyons cites the statewide economic impact airport study done by MassDOT in January 2019 that shows the 587 state employees working at the Worcester Regional Airport make a $97 million economical impact in Massachusetts. Lyons argues that the 2,500 city employees make a greater impact on the City of Worcester’s economy and that city teachers should have more of a voice in city matters.
Lyon said, “Based on simple math, the economic impact of our union salaries in Worcester is an extreme one. Where’s our seat in the business community? When do we get to share our opinions on how things are run? The teachers’ profession is not like that of doctors or lawyers. We don’t get asked our opinion on how things should be done. We hear what we’re supposed to be doing from the top. It’s ‘do this’ and ‘do that.’”
He added, “It’s not productive and I don’t think that way is working for most of our schools. As a group of professionals with Master’s degrees, I believe that we should be treated more professionally. At the same time, we need to raise the bar for each other and nurture our younger teachers.”
Lyons argues that during the last negotiations for teachers’ contracts with the City, the union left the younger teachers high and dry.
The current contract included a one percent retroactive raise and a seven percent raise over four years. The contract included a step freeze which limits younger teachers from moving up the salary ladder during the current contract.
“What we said was ‘If you’re young, we’re not going to take care of you financially.’ That’s not fair to them. What am I going to say to my niece that is just starting out as a teacher? I’m older and more established and too bad for you? What happened wasn’t right,” Lyons said.
Additionally, Lyons is actively working social media, school committee and city council meetings, and political rallies and events to both express his concerns on the subject of suspension rates among students of color and defend WPS teachers and administrators he feels have been unjustly attacked in recent weeks.
Lyons said, “The school department and city need to progress further, but I won’t stand for the bullying and the personal attacks online by people with their own political agendas as they use these students to make personal gains.”
A candidate forum is being hosted by the EAW on Tuesday, April 30 from 5 PM to 9 PM and is tentatively scheduled to be held at EAW headquarters [the site may change depending on number of RSVPs].
Lyons has requested a stand-alone debate be held for presidential candidates only -- consisting of Lyons, current EAW president Roger Nugent, former president Leonard Zalauskus, and Worcester Tech teacher and union vocational chair, Bob Mazzone.
As far as his chances of winning the union election are concerned, Lyons is hopefully optimistic.
“I’m well-spoken, I have a broad network, and whether you like me or not, I’m going to represent teachers to the best of my abilities,” Lyons said.
“This union presidency might be the most important in the past 20 years. I think with what’s happening now in Worcester Public Schools, the union president has to be prepared to expect a seat at the table, to make tough decisions, and not worry about who they have to please,” he said.
Lyons is holding a campaign rally at El Basha on Park Ave. on Monday, May 6 from 3 PM to 7 PM.
Stay with ThisWeekinWorcester.com for our other candidate profiles this month.
Follow us on The016.com, the social network for Worcester and you!