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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin: January 21, 2024

Dear Colleagues,


As I have focused on leading our negotiations team at the table, I have had to cede responsibility to others to lead our association's communications. Feels weird--and great!


Because what a fantastic job they are all doing! From outside the negotiations room, Ashley Raven, David Bedar, Jenni Bement, Anne Carey, Denise Cremin, and Ana Tellado-Schiff have quickly become communication experts; from within the negotiations room, Ryan Normandin, Liz Simpson, Sue Cohen, Janette Patel, Barry Hershenow and Valerie Brunache Lewis have kept our members and the public up to speed on what's happening (and what's not) at the negotiations table. They are getting better at it every day!


We are controlling the narrative.


That said, it's Sunday night (well, technically, Monday early morning), EBulletin night, so I'd like to get in a few words of my own to you. 


There's a lot of junk communication out there from the school committee and Mayor Fuller, malarky that lacks any substantive value. You've probably heard some of it--Brezski complaining about how long the NTA took to reply to them on Sunday, about how we raised the cost of our proposal by 15%, nonsense from Mayor Fuller about how generously she funds the schools, from Brezski about how it's completely the NTA's fault that students will not be returning to school tomorrow morning. All this is exactly what I just called it--junk communication. It's false, and we've countered what they have said.


But it's also a distraction, and that may well be the point of pumping it out. 


Because the Newton School Committee and Mayor Fuller want to draw attention away from the fact that they are stonewalling. Because they want to draw attention away from the important issues that they should be discussing honestly with us at the table.


Why are we bargaining to increase the hours of aides and behavioral therapists? Bargaining to provide a social worker in every elementary and middle school and the Newton Early Childhood Program? To provide adequate substitute coverage? Because these are the resources we need to educate our students well and keep them safe and healthy.  


Why are we advocating for reasonable cost of living adjustments, for humane and modern parental leave policies, to protect members from rising health insurance costs, for a living wage for Educational Support Professionals? Because it's progressive policies like these that allow the Newton Public Schools to hire and retain the remarkable professionals like you that make Newton's schools great! 


You, I, we know this. The school committee and Mayor Fuller should know this too, but they still aren't listening. Maybe they just never will be able to hear it. But if they are going to reject our proposals on these issues, they should be explaining to us and the public why. And just saying "we don't have enough money" doesn't cut it. Because we know they do.


In our campaign and our communication, we will continue to keep the importance of what we are fighting for front and center.


That smoke screen gaslighting nonsense they are pumping out to the press quickly dissipates as the word gets out about what is really at stake in these negotiations--the excellence of our schools, the quality of our students' education, the safeguarding of our beautiful profession. 


I know it's hard to start this coming week still out of our classrooms. It's hard for our students to be out of their classrooms. It's hard for parents to have to scramble to make alternative plans for their children.


But we must continue to fight for the contract that we and our students deserve! 


We WILL get this done! Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even Tuesday or Wednesday. When this ends is up to the school committee and Mayor Fuller to decide. They must decide when they have had enough of this foolish fight. 


Meanwhile, we will continue to stand strong. We will continue to fight until we get this done.


Enough is enough!


In solidarity,


Mike Zilles, President

Newton Teachers Association

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