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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin December 5, 2021

"What We Need" Survey

Chris Walsh and I have spent the better part of our time over the past week and a half analyzing the results of "What We Need" survey. We hope to be ready to share those results with you soon. As you can see below, we will be sharing a preliminary analysis with members of the NPS community next Thursday.

First of all, let me thank all of you who managed to find the time to fill out the survey for your thoughtful feedback. Your well considered, carefully worded, and heartfelt feedback puts the NTA in a much better position to advocate for what you need with the district.

But what you have given us is more than "data" to back up advocacy: you offer us a visceral, emotional, and compelling portrait of the challenges you face. Your dedication to your craft and to your students resonates throughout your responses.

And you make very clear that you are not receiving the institutional support that you need to best serve your students. You need district administrators to listen to you, trust that you know what your students need, and follow your lead.

More than anything else, what is evident in the survey results is that YOU are the educational leaders of the Newton Public Schools. Yours are the voices that must matter most.

Medical Advisory Group

November 8 Recommendations

On Friday, David Fleishman shared revised health and safety recommendations from the Medical Advisory Group, based on the group's most recent November 8th meeting. He also shared slides that the Medical Advisory Group will present to the School Committee tomorrow, Monday, December 6, at 7:00.

(Click here for the Zoom address to attend the meeting and information on how to participate in public comment.)

Among other revisions, the Medical Advisory Group (MAG) has changed its recommendation on continuing to offer surveillance testing.

I have a number of concerns with this recommendation in particular, and with the process in general:

  1. First of all, the Medical Advisory Group should hold its meetings in public, and there should be public minutes available for each meeting. Last spring, this was the case. Now, the public is offered a blanket summary of the group’s recommendations, but we do not know who attended the meetings, nor whether the recommendations were by consensus or whether there were dissenting opinions.

  2. We do not even get a list of the dates the group has met this year, nor of who attended each meeting. Does Dr. Ashish Jha, the member of the group with the most expertise in public health, attend the meetings? Is his name on the list of group members because he has weighed in on their decisions, or merely because his name carries weight?

  3. The last meeting of the group was on November 8. Since then, the seven-day average number of daily cases of COVID in Massachusetts has nearly tripled. Cases among staff and students in Massachusetts schools have quadrupled.

  4. We are now only at the beginning of a surge in cases. Counts of Sars-Cov-2 RNA in samples of wastewater are a leading indicator of new cases coming in the next one to two weeks. Right now, these counts in the metropolitan Boston area are almost at the levels they were in January 2020—just preceding the height of that surge in cases—and they are rising.

  5. What I have just enumerated are the risks posed by the Delta variant. We do not yet know what risks the Omicron variant will present.

Our members do not want a reduction in testing--they want more access to testing. Secondary educators are asking for testing in their schools. Members are also asking for access to daily “Test to Stay” BinaxNow antigen testing when they are a close contact with a student or adult in their room who tests positive.

If the district dismantles a program it took months to build and staff, and does not begin extending that program now into the secondary schools, it will be too late to put in place anything quickly enough to be effective if and when the Medical Advisory Group changes its mind...that is, when we are in the heights of a surge in cases.

In short, we need transparency, timeliness, and realism.

Community Outreach

The Parent / Educator Collaborative will be hosting a community meeting this Thursday, December 9 from 7:00 - 8:30pm. The meeting will provide a space where educators can share, directly with community allies, the themes revealed in the "What We Need" survey. In this difficult year, what do educators need from district leadership in order to best support students? There will be time for community members to ask questions, and a joint brainstorm on action steps. Sign up here for Zoom details.

Perhaps you are Interested in community outreach efforts with the NTA, but can't attend the event next Thursday. We continue to recruit members for our Parent / Educator Collaborative. The collaborative aims to connect community supporters with NTA members from all schools and levels, with a mission to support educators and their union. Looking ahead, we will be meeting regularly to grow community advocacy efforts around educators, our schools, and our union. Learn more here and sign up to attend our next meeting using this form.

MTA Opportunities

Upcoming Trainings and Events for New Members

Loan Forgiveness: How to manage credit and qualify for loan forgiveness.

Register in advance for these zoom webinars:

Professional Teacher Status (PTS): How and when educators earn PTS, and their rights before they earn it.

Register in advance for these zoom meetings:

Tuesday 12/14/21 6:30 – 7:30 AM [That’s 6:30 in the morning!]



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