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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin: December 17, 2023



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On Monday, December 18, at 4:15, the NTA will hold a press advisory in front of the education center to announce the results of its vote last week. That same day, your negotiations team will be in a mediation session with the school committee until 6:15. Finally, the school committee meeting starts at 6:30.


This gives you the opportunity to:

  • Attend the press conference

  • Be a silent observer during mediation

  • Line the halls as the school committee enters room 210

  • Give public comment

No sign up needed. Just show up!


If you haven't yet, please send Mayor Fuller an email by clicking here. 




Mediation Update

                        Chris Walsh and Mike Zilles


Tomorrow, in our mediation session, the NTA will not present a “package proposal,” nor entertain one the school committee presents to us. After six months of following an approach where each side packages together everything it proposes and rejects everything the other side proposes—an approach that the school committee began insisting on in June 2023--the NTA and the School Committee have made almost no progress in negotiations. 


As we will explain below, this approach does not seem designed to facilitate agreement, as the school committee claims, but rather to prevent the parties from reaching agreement. Indeed, that has been the result of school committee’s strategy: It has thwarted progress in negotiations and moved us towards impasse. Whatever inferences one might make about the school committee’s intentions, that certainly has been the impact of their strategy. 


How does packaging all proposals together short circuit progress?


In their December 4, 2023 Meeting “Negotiations Update,” the school committee reported that they had proposed a slight increase in the COLA--they moved from their prior proposal of 2% in year one, 2% in year two and 3% in year three to 2% in year one, 2.5% in year two and 3% in year three. (For Unit C, however, they proposed a 2.5% COLA in year two for members on all steps except the top step, and 2% for members on the top step. They explained that in their view Unit C members on the top step are already well compensated.)  


Here is a breakdown of the NTA’s COLA proposals and the SC’s proposals as of December 4:






























As we said above, the COLA proposal given to the NTA by the School Committee on December 4 was explicitly tied to their Package Proposal of October 25, 2023The footnote on the School Committee’s package proposals reads as follows:  “This is a package proposal.  The Committee’s proposals that are not included in this package are not withdrawn.  The Committee’s prior positions on items included in this package are maintained if this package is not accepted in full.”


While COLA proposals are in many ways the most visible part of contract negotiations, and sometimes used as a kind of short hand to assess how things are going, it is important to look at what they mean in this context of “package proposals.”   


The school committee proposal entails that in order to “get” the COLAs the School Committee put in their package, the NTA would need to accept

  • additional restrictions on the use of the sick leave bank;

  • a large increase in the share of the health insurance premiums paid by subscribers to the BCBS Blue Care Select (PPO) plan that would increase the member cost of health insurance premiums by thousands of dollars per year;

  • an increase in health insurance deductibles and some copays for all members;

  • language that would allow the district to discriminate against non-resident children of staff enrolled in NPS if they have disabilities;

  • beginning the teacher work year on the Monday before Labor Day and increasing the number of days teachers work during the year by 

  • allowing for three (rather than two) teacher days prior to the arrival of students, and

  • allowing for the district to schedule one “professional development/training day” during the school year;

  • elimination of contract language that prohibits assigning elementary teachers lunch duty;

  • elimination of the provisions of the Full Day Kindergarten Article that require full time teaching assistants in every classroom that has 14 or more students;

  • changes to the Elementary Time and Learning Agreements that would

  • remove the provision that sets the start and end times of the school day,

  • remove language that specifies how early release days are used and replace it with language that grants broad management discretion to direct that time,

  • allow the district to permanently change the weekly short day dismissal time by extending it  by 15 minutes;

  • changes to the Middle School Time and Learning Agreement that would

  • increase special early release days from 4 to 6,

  • increase teacher duties from 2 to 3, and no longer consider advisory a duty,

  • limit unscheduled preparation time to one period per day and give broad administrative discretion for the scheduling of any other non-student time, and

  • increase team teacher time working with students by four periods per week;

  • changes to the High School Time and Learning Agreement that would

  • set the contractual staff work day to be 10 minutes before student arrival until 10 minutes after dismissal,

  • increase academic duties to three per week for teachers that teach four classes, and eliminate the English cap.

Additionally, it means giving up not just our own COLA proposals but also key other proposal items including

  • changes in the parental leave policy that would

  • increase paid time from 40 days to 60 days, in line with other districts,

  • increase the portion of the paid time that would be paid by the district rather than from member accumulated sick time, and

  • make the policy gender neutral in accordance with Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination guidelines;

  • increased pay for daily Instructional Support Staff;

  • increased longevity payments and equity among the five units;

  • moving the date of step increases for Units A, B, and E back to September 1;

  • equitable treatment of Unit E employees with regard to initial step placement;

  • increased hours for Unit C staff at all levels to match the Unit A workday;

  • increased contractually guaranteed preparation time for elementary educators;

  • provision for floating ABA Behavior Therapists in substantially separate programs and at the Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP);

  • provision for one regular education social worker (in addition to current staffing which is tied to student services) in each elementary and middle school, and at NECP;

  • contractual language guaranteeing self-directed preparation time for educators during two non-student days at the beginning of the year, including making attendance at the district wide opening day discretionary;

  • language that would bring equity among the four middle school with respect to the scheduling of meetings and the length of the work day;

  • eliminating the “English Cap” at high school and replacing it with class caps for all teachers of English, English Language Learners, History and Social Science, Mathematics, Science, Engineering, and World Language; and

  • moving the weekly high school meeting time to the morning.


So as things now stand in negotiations, the school committee has proposed that the NTA agree to their COLA proposals and “all of the above” SC proposals and “none of the above” NTA proposals. And vice-versa: the NTA has proposed that the the school committee agree to our COLA proposals and “all of the above” NTA proposals and “none of the above” SC proposals. 


Practically speaking what this means is that in mediation we rarely talk about anything but COLAs, and none of the myriad proposals both parties still have on the table.


In preparing our proposal for tomorrow, we have gone back to where negotiations stood before we began bargaining packages. We have referenced the bargaining history, and we have stated where we now stand on each of the individual, unpackaged, proposals that we and the school committee still have on the table. 


We must begin afresh. We must begin from the place of actually bargaining what is on the table. The school committee may try to make hay about the fact that our COLA proposals, when presented as self-standing rather than as part of a comprehensive package, are higher than they were in November. But we are also inferring that theirs are lower as well, because, as they say [t]he Committee’s prior positions on items included in this package are maintained if this package is not accepted in full.” And we most certainly did not accept their latest proposal “in full.” 


The last on the record, non-packaged COLA proposal from the school committee was, for all Units:





















You can see the full NTA 12-18-23 proposal document, which contains the history of negotiations, by clicking here


As we bargain discrete proposals, these numbers may shift as we achieve agreement on other proposals.


The school committee can play a PR game around this, or, they can get serious about reaching an agreement. If they don’t agree with our COLA proposals, they can counter-propose. What they cannot expect is that we will agree to abandon all of our other proposals and accept all of theirs as a condition of bargaining at all about COLAs. We insist on bargaining in good faith. 

 

*****



In solidarity,


Mike Zilles, President

Newton Teachers Association



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