I hope summer has been good to you and you are now enjoying these last, beautiful, precious days of summer in the ways that make you most happy and refreshed. I think we all know better than to take anything for granted, but here's hoping that this coming year is much easier and less stressful than last!
That said, hope alone is not enough. Many of our students will again return to school this fall with heightened social and emotional needs, many will still struggle to "do school," and many will still need to make up for learning loss. COVID will still cause more absences, disruption, and more challenging working conditions. So, while I certainly hope for--and anticipate!--a better year, rest assured that I know the NTA must remain vigilant on your behalf!
As you know, Kathleen Smith is our Interim Superintendent for this year. She and I have met a number of times this summer, and we have certainly started off on the right foot. And one of the things we have agreed on is the importance of returning to our traditional in person celebration of opening day in the Newton South Field House.
I know that this decision, which we made jointly, will be met with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, it’s a tough schlep to get to Newton South, then find parking, listen to (mostly boring) speeches, and finally, schlep back to your buildings...all the while worrying about getting set up and ready for students.
On the other hand, opening day is the only opportunity we have all year, as union members, and as professionals, to gather together as a community.
I know every year I have been president of the NTA, I have looked forward to greeting you as union members on opening day, and this year is no different. And, of course, you already know some of what I will share: that this is the last year of our contract; that in Newton there is a long history of not settling a new contract until after the current contract expires, often without retroactive pay increases; that after these last few difficult years we have been through together, the last thing we need is a protracted contract battle.
Bear in mind, however, that it is critical not just that I share my thoughts with you, but that I do so in person, with the mayor, most members of the school committee, our new superintendent, and members of the central administration present. When I do that, you can let them know that I speak for all of us when I say:This year, we expect better from our political leaders. Speaking together with one voice, we let our district leaders know we will hold them accountable!
As professionals, it is important this year that you have the opportunity to meet, for yourselves, your interim superintendent, and she have the opportunity to meet you. I’m sure you want to know: Is this person just putting in her time, earning an extra paycheck, or will she step up and provide leadership over this coming year? Will she be in charge, be a leader who knows the buck stops with her?
Of course, you won’t get answers to these questions from one speech. But you can form impressions of your own. So do not come to the meeting expecting a discussion of district goals, or ed policy. What I know Kathy would like you to take away from this gathering is a sense of who she is: Her history, her values, her commitments....and, most importantly, her commitment to doing her best to provide transparent leadership for the Newton Public Schools over the upcoming year.
This year, speakers won’t be sitting on stage: We will go up to the stage, say what we have to say, and then return to the audience. What you will see on stage, then, are the projected summer pictures that you choose to share. So don't forget to upload pictures before the end of the day tomorrow using the link Julie McDonough sent to your NPS gmail account. Put yourself front and center, because, as educators, that is your rightful place in the Newton Public Schools!
Finally, remember: Attendance is optional. While I would love to see ALL of you on August 31st, it is your decision to come or not to come.