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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin, August 9, 2020

I don't know about you, but I need a little levity. 

You will find below four sections to this August 9th EBulletin:

  • An update on the district's planning process for "Return to Learning," with important events this week, and action steps we are encouraging members to take.

  • A negotiations update, with a link to the draft of the district's "Return to Learning" plan they shared with us at last Wednesday's negotiations, as well as NTA's negotiations priorities.

  • An important poll on the school calendar--please participate!

  • MTA and NEA endorsements for the Senate and Fourth Congressional District races in the September 1st democratic primaries.

I want to remind you that I will be taking one week of vacation, beginning August 15 and returning August 24. It will be hard to be away at such a critical period, but I need some down time with family. I will not be taking phone calls, responding to emails nor text messages during that period. Chris Walsh, Jason Leto, and other members of our Executive Committee will be available. I will send out a last EBulletin before I leave. 

"Return to Learning" Update

Timeline for the week of August 9, with action steps: 1. Monday, August 10, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. School Committee Meeting. Central Administration presents "Return to Learning Plan" to Committee. Committee votes on plan, but does not decide until Wednesday what model we will follow in September (remote or hybrid). Action Steps: 

  •  If you have not already done so, sign NTA petition by clicking here by noon Monday.

  • Attend the School Committee Meeting:

  • Use the NTA logo as your profile picture during the SC meeting.

  • Share any concerns you would like the district to address by speaking at public comment. Sign up to speak before 7:00 p.m. tomorrow. 

2. Wednesday, August 12, 8:00 to 10:30 a.m. School Committee Meeting. Committee votes on whether NPS will follow a hybrid or remote model. The "Return to Learning" plan and this decision will then be communicated to DESE. The district will review plans, and, if necessary, adjust, during the week of August 24. Final plans and decision still need to be bargained with NTA.  Action Steps:

  • See above

3. Wednesday, August 12, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. NTA and NPS bargaining session. Action Step: NTA negotiations team will respond to NPS plans. 4. Thursday, August 12, 10:00 am. Question and answer with Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, accompanied by NPS Director of Facilities David Stickney.  Action Steps:

  • Be on the alert for Zoom address and further information on meeting, including how to submit questions, which David Fleishman will send early in the week.

  • Prepare and submit questions:  Ask questions that address specific risk factors or concerns, e.g.,

    • "What are the risks associated with students attending multiple classes per day with different cohorts of students"? or;

    • "What are the risks associated with many students moving from class to class in narrow hallways"? or; 

    • "What are the risks associated with being in buildings with old and often dysfunctional ventilation systems"?

  • Attend the meeting!

Negotiations Update On Wednesday, August 5th, the NTA Negotiations Team met again with members of the School Committee and central administration. The district presented us with this linked draft of their "Return to Learning" plan.  The district and the NTA are actively engaged in negotiations on the daily schedule for distance and hybrid learning for all levels. Progress has been much slower than I believe either party would like, but there has been progress.  The NTA's continues to bargain for: 

  • A phased in reopening plan. All learning should begin remotely, and hybrid learning should only be phased in when it is safe to do so. If there are any exceptions, and some students do return immediately in September, no educators should be forced to choose between working in conditions they consider unsafe or losing their jobs. 

  • Safe working conditions. The district must share and negotiate ALL safety plans with the NTA, as well as the metrics they are relying on when determining when to reopen in a hybrid model, if at all. Blanket statements like: "We are following DESE guidelines" or "We are following Newton Public Health Department recommendations," does not fulfill NPS obligation to share information with the NTA nor to negotiate safe working conditions. 

  • Fair accommodations for members who are at high risk. We must have protocols and policies that are transparent, and that we can communicate to our members. 

  • Fair Evaluation procedures.

  • Reasonable and workable schedules for the school days. The length of the school day and the amount of screen time must be carefully calibrated. Neither educators nor students should be expected to reproduce the "normal" school day remotely. The schedules must facilitate a phased introduction to hybrid learning without disruption to teaching and learning. 

  • Adequate planning time built into the schedule for all educators. When educators were surveyed last year, they said they were spending three times as long to plan for remote teaching as they would spend planning for in-person teaching.

  • Equitable expectations for all educators. Last spring, expectations for special education teachers in particular were unreasonable and overwhelming. This must change. 

  • Improved utilization of Unit C staff. Unit C members must have roles that allow them to contribute significantly to student support and learning. The district cannot afford to again underutilize their skills and expertise as it did last spring.

Negotiations Poll We need your input in order to give an informed response to a School Committee bargaining proposal on the school calendar. As you are probably already aware, DESE is allowing districts to use up to ten days at the beginning of the year for planning and preparation. However, DESE has stipulated that students must begin school by September 16. If districts don't use those additional days of planning at the beginning of the year, they lose them. Currently, we are contractually obligated to return to work on September 2. If we return as scheduled, and students return on September 16, that will only allow the district to use eight of the ten preparation days DESE is granting.  The SC has proposed, in negotiations, that educators return on Monday, August 31, to allow for a full ten days of planning prior to "returning to learning."  Within the restrictions on the use of those days that DESE has prescribed, this presents two options we must choose between. Neither option changes the NTA members' contractual obligation to work 182 days. They only impact how those days are allocated. 1. Option #1. Return for planning on Wednesday, September 2, per the contract.

  • This provides for eight days of planning before students begin.

  • The school year with students would have 172 instructional days. 

  • There will be two additional full professional days during the course of the school year. (This complies with educators' contractual obligation to work 182 days.)

  • Assuming there are five "snow days," the last day of school for students would be Monday, June 28. The last day for educators would be Tuesday, June 29.

2. Option #2: Return for planning on Monday, August 31, per SC proposal.

  • This provides for ten days of planning before students begin.

  • The school year with students would have 170 instructional days

  • There will be two additional full professional days during the course of the school year. (This complies with educators' contractual obligation to work 182 days.) 

  • Assuming there are five "snow days," the last day for students would be Thursday, June 24. The last day for educators would be Friday, June 25.   

In summary, both options require NTA members to work 182 days, but differ in the allocation of those days:

  • Option #1 does not change the current beginning or ending dates for members; 

  • Option #2 requires members to begin the year two days earlier and allows them to end two days earlier;

  • Option #1 includes two fewer planning days at the beginning of the school year and two more instructional days with students during the school year;

  • Option #2 includes two more planning days at the beginning of the year and two fewer instructional days with students during the school year.

[poll available in email only] MTA/NEA Candidate Endorsements

The MTA, NEA, SEIU, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley have endorsed Jesse Mermell for Congresswoman in the Democratic party primary in the fourth congressional district, the seat Joseph Kennedy formerly held. (Click on the picture above to go to candidate Mermell's website.) I would also personally recommend that you look at her platform on education. She has earned her endorsement from MTA and NEA!

The MTA and NEA have endorsed Ed Markey for the democratic Senate primary between him and Joseph Kennedy. (Click on the picture above to go to the candidate's website.) Thank you for your time. ******* "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Please take care and stay well. Mike  



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