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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

March 18 - NTA COVID-19 Update

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

We have reached an agreement with the district that covers the period from March 11 until April 4, 2020.

Through this agreement all NTA employees will be "held harmless" from any compensation or benefit impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. 1. Use of sick days: From March 11th until April 4, no absences due to an employee or a family member's illness days will be charged against the employee's personal illness or family illness days. This does not include employees who, prior to March 11, were on unpaid leave, or employees who were on paid medical or parental leave. The former will continue on unpaid leave, the latter will continue to use their accumulated sick days or sick leave bank days. 

2. Compensation: All salaried employees will receive pay for their full contracted days of work during this period. This includes Unit A, B, C, and E employees. While Unit C employees are technically hourly employees, their hourly rate is annualized and paid over a ten month period. They will continue to be paid this amount. Hourly employees, including Unit D employees (ISS substitutes), lunch aides, etc., will continue to be paid their contracted hourly rate as well as for any additional hourly work they do, such as bus duty, etc. Their compensation will be based on the average number of hours worked from January 1, 2020 through March 13, 2020. 3. "Snow days": Any Unit E employees who were required to work from March 13 through March 18 will be provided with comp days equivalent to the number of days they worked. In addition, Unit E employees may carry over additional vacation days this year.  Any Unit B employees who worked any days during the four "snow days" can count those days towards the total number days they are required/scheduled to work this school year. 4. Remote Learning. David Fleishman and I have timed our communication so that this email arrives at about the same time as the district communicates with you its plans, guidelines, and resources for remote learning. I will allow their communication to guide your planning for instruction and speak more to the guiding principle underlying those guidelines: "to provide students with enrichment and home-learning opportunities, which is not a substitute for instruction or curriculum." I am in fundamental agreement with the district on this guiding principle. Normalcy, over the next weeks, will not mean trying to do what we were doing, only from far away, or remotely. Rather, we will try to support children and families so that they remain engaged and resilient through these hard time, knowing we are there for them. Let me say what this means to me, personally. I have received many emails from members, and they uniformly have conveyed the same message: we want to reach out to our students as soon as possible; we want to provide as much structure, social and emotional support, and continuity of learning as possible; and we want to do this as equitably as possible. We want to be there for our students.  As a parent of two high school students in the Newton Public Schools, I can also say that many of their teachers have reached out to them already. Uniformly, their messages have been thoughtful, nuanced, and caring. As a parent, that is what I needed to hear.  What will matter most to students, to parents, to the community, is your tremendous care and love, the fact that it is you, their teacher or counselor or teaching assistant, who is reaching out, who is there for them.  Over the days and weeks ahead, some of us will become sick, some very sick: I may, you may, our families and friends may, our students and their families may. These will be difficult times. We don't know how difficult yet, and we don't know how long they will last. Please continue to find ways to communicate your care and love; to be there for your students to the extent you can; to normalize and humanize, as much as possible, these unfamiliar, confusing and frightening times. When you hear parents grumbling on social media that their students are not getting the instruction they should receive, or worrying about SAT or AP tests, and other setbacks and losses, remember the fear and anxiety that drives their frustration, and don't let that frustration dampen your spirits or your generosity. We signed this agreement so that you are safe, so that you have permission to be that generous person, that kind leader, for your students and their families; so that you can be the educator you are. One of the things I have been doing over the last few days is watching an episode each day of "Friday Night Lights" with my stepson. If you haven't watched it, I recommend you do. For those of you who have, you will know these words that Coach Taylor's athletes recite before each game: "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Please take care and stay well.



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