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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

May 3, 2020 EBulletin

I hope you were able to enjoy some of this glorious weather this weekend. Finally, spring is here, and it looks like the weather will be good for the next ten days or so!

COVID-19 Update May 3

I am pleased to say that the Newton Public Schools will, with some tweaks, continue to support our current distance learning. I think what we all need is some continuity and consistency. Fortunately, the leadership of the Newton Public Schools agrees.  We are currently in negotiations around those tweaks, and I will update you later in the week when the changes to the agreement are finalized. I expect that will be around midweek, or possibly earlier.  Many of you have asked me about the summer and fall. The answer is, we don't know yet. As far as NPS summer programming, the district will likely make decisions about that in early June.  Regarding the fall...that will be the NTA's next challenge. We have formed a subcommittee of the NTA Executive Committee to begin the conversation. What we know is that we will need to proactively think about what our members will need under any scenario.  I have received many questions about layoffs. We know that both state and local sources of revenue are shrinking, and Newton is not immune to this. But Newton's finances are strong and based primarily on property taxes. Even though, because of revenue shortfalls, the Mayor has reduced the allocation for the schools for next year slightly from her original proposal, this reduction should be offset by savings the district realized this year because NPS closed school buildings, stopped the buses, realized other savings, and will receive funding from the CARE act.  While the current situation is precarious, and no one can say for sure what September will bring...right now, no one from the School Committee or Central Administration has broached with the NTA the subject of layoffs.  Finally, a member contacted me last week after I shared that Baker had called for schools to be closed for the remainder of the school year. She told me that while school buildings are closed, the Newton Public Schools are very much open for business, and educators have probably never worked harder than they are working now to serve students. So true! NTA Statement on Anti-Asian Racism Thank you to Mike Schlegelmilch, who spearheaded the effort to compose the following NTA statement. Thank you to Charlene Beh and Michelle Leong for getting the conversation started, and to Sue Cohen, Ariana Foster, and Jane Frantz of the Executive Committee for their contributions. The statement itself has the full and unanimous support and endorsement of the NTA Executive Committee.   Support Asian and Asian-American Students, Educators and Families––and Reject Hate The covid pandemic has been brutally hard on all of us, as we struggle to balance work and other commitments, care for family members, and support our students emotionally through this traumatic time. To get through this, our solidarity as union members and our supportive relationships with each other are more important now than ever. While acknowledging the struggles we all face, it is critical to recognize that this pandemic has unleashed an ugly and extremely dangerous form of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia that we must fight and defeat. We see it on the national stage in increased incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Asian Americans, and in despicable rhetoric from politicians. In our own community, we have seen Asian and Asian-American educators and students targeted in hate-filled “Zoom-bombing” incidents in high school classes. We must be absolutely clear and unwavering in our support for Asian and Asian-American students, educators, and families who have been targets, or are at risk of being targets, of this hate. Let us take this moment to think about how we can use our collective power to take a stand against racism in all of its forms and acknowledge that hate and xenophobia have no place in our schools and our community. Let us also see this as a call to action to reflect on our own privileges and biases, and commit to further educating ourselves and becoming even better allies for our students and fellow educators of color. As we develop a plan as a union at the local and statewide level to counter this hate, each of us is called upon to reflect on how we can show support and solidarity for our Asian and Asian-American coworkers and students on an individual level. This can be as simple as checking in to see how your Asian-identifying students and coworkers are doing, or organizing a video or photo collage with your colleagues sending the message that we love and support our Asian and Asian-American students, and that we stand firm in rejecting hate. If we all commit to being allies in our everyday interactions with our colleagues and students, we can make this crisis just a little more bearable for many of us who are most at risk. In the longer term, our Asian-American students need us to learn even more about their experiences and the challenges they face. Many Asian-American students have had to contend with long-standing explicit and implicit bias and discrimination that the current, alarming rise in anti-Asian American sentiment has exacerbated. The “model minority” stereotype, an assumption that all Asian-American students do exceptionally well academically, can lead many of us to assume that Asian-American students are thriving. Too often, this means that Asian-American students face risks to their emotional and mental health that we as a school system fail to identify. And more Asian-American students face socioeconomic challenges than many Newton staff would imagine. These struggles may not always be visible to educators for a variety of reasons, but they are a very real part of many Asian-American students’ lives as they go through the Newton Public Schools. We must commit to showing our Asian-American students that we see them, hear them, and value them as individuals and as an essential part of the Newton community. If you have ideas for how we can leverage the collective power of our union to support Asian-Americans and all communities of color, please let us know. And to our members who identify as Asian or Asian-American, please know that you are not alone. Just as we reaffirm our commitment to supporting all of our students and members of color, we pledge to stand in solidarity with you, support you as coworkers, friends, and allies, and take actions large and small to defeat hate and bias in all forms. Reminder: NTA/NPS Agreement on the Use of Zoom and Other Teleconferencing Software. Please remember: We negotiated protections for you in the Memorandum of Agreement on Distance Learning. On the one hand, we agreed that, "[t]he District and the Association encourage and support educators to use online video conferencing tools so that students have the opportunity to see, hear and connect with them." On the other hand "[We] also recognize that using online video conferencing tools to meet remotely with students is one of many tools that can effectively be used to direct student learning." Moreover, the district agreed that it would provide "guidelines [that] include age appropriate contact by level and usage guidelines for staff and students/families, as well as protocols for protecting the security and safety of students and educators during video conferencing." But in the event a member does not feel safe using teleconferencing, whether Zoom or other software, we also included the following protective language in the agreement: "If, having followed these guidelines, educators still experience difficulties or risk, they should contact their supervisor to discuss alternative means of maintaining contact and connection with their students." In short, if, having made a good faith effort to use teleconferencing, you still feel unsafe, you should contact your direct supervisor to find another way of connecting with students. The Massachusetts Child, MTA’s Charitable Organization, Makes Available Emergency Funds. The Massachusetts Child Fund is making available approximately $4,,000 in additional funding to the Newton Teachers Association to support enrichment and educational materials for students in need. Their intent is to help educators stay connected with students while our schools remain closed. Perhaps you can send students in need a few books that you think they would enjoy. Or maybe there is a student who would take on a learning project if given the necessary supplies. The Mass Child cannot reimburse the cost of electronics such as Chromebooks and iPads or any other materials that are the responsibility of the district. You can apply directly to Mass Child electronically. They have set up an electronic application form on the Mass Child page of the MTA website. When you submit your request for reimbursement, you will be asked if you have your local president's approval, and that's to protect you. We will be keeping track of requests so that we know when we have used up all of our grant money. So, before you make a purchase contact Chris Walsh at with 1) the items you plan to purchase, and 2) approximate cost. We will then be able to let you know whether or not your proposed purchase will be reimbursed before you have spent the money yourself.

Deadlines 1. Out-of-Assigned District Application for children of NTA members due June 1. The district has extended the deadline for submitting an application to have your children attend the NPS if you live out-of-district until June 30.  The Google Form for applying can be accessed by clicking here. **** Thank you for reading. "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Please take care and stay well.


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