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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

Important: Please Complete this Fall Action Survey!

Dear Colleagues,

As I think you have all seen from my previous four emails, the school committee has committed itself to fight the NTA by fair means or foul.

We need to hear from you. Please fill out this survey and inform us of your commitment to participating in our modified work to rule actions this fall. We need to hear from all members, and, indeed, one measure of member commitment is by how many people complete the survey.

In my last email, I explained what our modified work to rule will look like. I am including that explanation again here for your reference as you think about your commitment to our campaign for a fair contract.

Modified Work to Rule

I will start by explaining the “spirit” of modified work to rule.

With work to rule, what we want to do is:

  • slow down or halt district initiatives;

  • challenge “non-aligned” administrators’ (central administrators and principals) ability to do their every day business when they rely on our voluntary contributions to do this business;

  • keep up the good work we do with students, and continue to adhere to our own personal standards of excellence for ourselves and our students;

  • build solidarity within our membership and have all NTA members, PTS and non-PTS, and from all units, participate.

We want to avoid:

  • gumming up the important work of educators with their students;

  • making our own jobs more difficult;

  • rupturing our relationships with our students, the community or our colleagues;

  • alienating or dividing our members from each other or the community.

This means our "modified" work to rule will take a different form from traditional work to rule.

Under traditional work to rule, salaried educators:

  • arrive at the contractual time they are required to be in school and leave at the contractual time that their school day ends;

  • do no emailing, preparation, grading or phone calls outside of contractual hours.

Under OUR modified work to rule, as salaried educators, you will (or won't):

  • You WILL continue to grade and prepare for classes outside the contractual day.

  • You WILL arrive or leave when you need to every day to prepare for the day, or do whatever work you need to do. BUT when you are in your building, you WILL close your door if you can, and put up your “do not disturb” door hanger to send a message: “I am here for my planning and other work that I need to do, and that is all."

  • In general, and when possible, during times you are not teaching, you WILL put the door hanger up when you are prepping. (Of course, this will differ at different levels and for different jobs.)

  • You WON’T do consults or IEP meetings outside of contract hours.

  • You WILL meet with your grade level team or colleagues before or after school if you all agree to it, but, you WON’T do collaborative planning outside of contract hours that someone else tells you to do (principal says “I want you to do this committee meeting, meet with your mentee at this time, etc”).

  • You WILL engage in electronic communication during contract hours only.

  • Emails: Write answers to emails at your convenience, outside of contractual hours if that is what works best for you, but schedule any emails you send to parents or supervisors to go out during contractual hours.

  • Texting: Don’t do work related texting before or after the contractual work day, particularly with supervisors, except when required (reporting absence).

  • Schoology and other online platforms: No teacher presence in the evening/outside of contract hours.

  • You WON’T schedule extra help for students during your contractual hours, unless it is simply impossible to do this because of your own schedule or your student’s won't allow it.

  • You WON'T do bus duties outside of contract hours unless there are prior agreements in your school for some members to stay late and receive a stipend.

One last thing: NTA members WILL continue to write letters of recommendation.

School Committee Negotiations Bargaining Team member Paul Levy debated MTA President Max Page on whether public educators in Massachusetts should have the right to strike, and in that debate, Paul said that public sector unions do not need the right to strike because they have many other means of advocacy at their legal disposal, including work to rule. He also suggested that as part of work to rule, unions could organize their members to refuse to write letters of recommendation.

The MTA legal advice that I have received is clear: Paul is wrong. Writing letters of recommendation is a professional obligation, and in that sense, not voluntary. Of course, an educator always has the discretion to say to an individual student that they cannot write that student a positive letter of recommendation that would support their application. This sometimes, though rarely, happens. But educators cannot refuse to write letters of recommendation as a work to rule action. If they do, the district would have “just cause” to discipline them, and if a union organized this as an action, the district would have a right to seek an injunction to stop the union, and fine it.

But the legal basis of Paul Levy’s statements notwithstanding, we are not calling for our members to withhold writing letters of recommendation because it’s a bad idea. To ask members to do that would undermine the spirit of our work to rule actions. It would divide our members from each other, from their students, and from the community. And it just isn’t fair to harm students or their families in this way.

In summary, we would like members to not volunteer to do anything outside of contractual hours to the extent possible, nor to volunteer for added responsibilities during contractual hours. In short, please do not volunteer for anything that is not in the service of your direct professional and contractual responsibilities to your students. The goal here, in part, is to demonstrate to the district how much it counts on your good will, your willingness to go above and beyond for your students. At the same time, we will remain fully committed to doing our jobs well! We want the community and our students to know we are on their side--because we are. It is the community’s elected leaders who are not.

In solidarity,

Mike Zilles



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