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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin: February 25, 2024

Dear Colleagues and Unionists,

It is very hard for us, as unionists, to perceive our strike in the same, negative way that Newton political leaders and Central Administrators see it.

For them, it was a terrible disruption of school for the children and parent community of the Newton Public Schools. And that's true--it was that.

For them, it represents a failure, a breakdown in the relationship between management, the school committee, and the educators of the Newton Public Schools. And that's true--it does represent that. 

For them, it is a tragic rupture in the very fabric of all of our relationship with each other from which we must heal. And that's true--there was a rupture, and we do need healing. 

Even though we can acknowledge these truths, there are other, competing truths in our own experience that matter, which we cannot and should not let go of--ways in which our strike was a powerful, compelling experience for our members and for the community. As one CAT building leader put it to me at the end of the strike: "This was the most important thing I've done in my life." 

Think of that--THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! Not graduating from high school, or college, or graduate school. Not landing their first job. Not this member's wedding, or giving birth to children, or raising those children, or sending them off to college. Not any specific teaching they did. NO. Participating in this strike. This was the watershed moment...the one to turn back to in retirement, to say: In January and February of 2024, when I was a member of the Newton Teachers Association, we went out on strike, and held the line against a school committee, a mayor, and a mercenary lawyer, all of whom were bent on breaking us. And we held the line for fifteen wet, cold days, and we emerged victorious. 

Whether this was the most important thing you have done in your life, it was certainly life changing, for me, and, I'm sure, for you. And it will be something we all remember for the rest of our lives, and we will tell and retell the story of this strike. 

There are a million and one things I wanted to say in this email, but I'm not going to that. Rather, I'm going to stop writing and ask you, as you prepare to greet Anna Nolin and other members of the Central staff, to think about your experience of our strike--both why, in your mind, it was disruptive, and a failure of negotiations, and a rupture in our relationship with the School Committee and Central Administration AND a powerful and amazing experience. How do those seeming contradictions live in your mind, in your memory, in your emotional experience of having lived through those 15 days? 

And I will leave you with that.

In solidarity,

Mike Zilles, President

Newton Teachers Association


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