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Parents step in so work-to-rule won’t hurt science fair


HARVARD — The science fair is an annual tradition at The Bromfield School, but it took action from a concerned group of parents to keep the tradition alive.

The status of the fair was uncertain at one point because of labor issues.

The Harvard Teachers Association (HTA) is working without a contract, and its members have largely gone work-to-rule, which means no involvement with extra-curricular activities including the fair.

When the circumstance became clear in November, a group of parents stepped up to host the event.

“It was very important to me,” said parent Ellen Sachs Leicher, who is on the committee running this year’s event. “I just feel it’s a good learning opportunity and an opportunity to practice the scientific method.”

Leicher and other parent boosters declined to comment on the labor situation. Instead they focused on the event.

“We understand everyone’s side, but we didn’t want to see the kids suffer,” she said.

Parents also spoke with the HTA before stepping in, said Leicher. Asked about the circumstance, association negotiating team Chairman Kathleen Doherty said teachers would prefer to be involved.

“I’m glad to hear the parents weren’t critical of the HTA,” she said. “The decision to go to work-to-rule was something we took very reluctantly. It’s very disappointing to me that it’s March, and we still haven’t settled.”

At issue is the percentage of health-insurance contributions, an issue where consensus has eluded school and teachers.

In the meantime, it’s parents who have planned and mentored for the science fair. Parents also volunteered to host the event and fund-raise for the prizes, said organizer Karla Talanian.

“The community outpouring has been great,” she said. “We asked for volunteers from the parent community, and lots and lots of them stepped forward.”

Even so, there are things parents can’t replicate. Leicher said students often receive extra credit for doing the science fair, which isn’t always the case this time. She said the roughly 30 students participating this year deserve a lot of credit.

“The kids who have stepped up deserve to be acknowledged for their hard work,” she said.

Leicher said parents would prefer to have teachers resume science-fair duties next year, said Leicher but they’ve added some new wrinkles this year that could be the basis of future collaboration.

“I thought we did add a few things, especially with the mentors,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Jefferson thanked the parents for their efforts.

“We’re very pleased because it’s an opportunity for many kids who look forward to it,” he said. “We’re certainly glad to give kids a chance to focus their efforts and get acknowledgment.”

The science fair will be held March 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., in The Bromfield School cafeteria, and is open to the public.

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