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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin January 8, 2023

In this issue:

Contract Action Update #1 After I sent out the last Negotiations Update, I’ve heard lots of feedback, most of it asking the questions: What are we going to do? What can I do now? And of course, the short answer is: We are mounting a contract campaign that will bring pressure on the members of the school committee, central administrators, and the mayor to settle a contract before the end of this school year—before the current contract expires. And the answer to the question of what can you do now is: Join our Contract Action Team and help us organize and coordinate this campaign. Click here to sign up for the team. More specifically, members ask: What is this particular campaign going to look like? I’ve heard some impatience with what we have done in the past—T-shirts, standouts, rallies—as not being enough. A debate about how quickly, how militantly, to act often crystalizes around whether we should engage in “work to rule.” Some members insist: “We must take immediate and drastic action. It isn’t enough to just wear t-shirts or stand outside our buildings in the morning. We need to begin work to rule right away. Now!”

Others respond: “Work to rule just won’t work. I can’t serve my students well and also work to rule. Work to rule will pit member against member, because some of us just won’t let down our students, and others will insist that we adhere strictly to work to rule. Work to rule is just divisive.” Even though it might feel we are moving too slowly or too passively for some members, and too fast or too militantly for others, if we are to win a fair contract, a key will be to remain united. Our solidarity is the source of our power. I share the impatience of those who want to begin with the most combative actions and the caution of those who fear dividing our union or harming students. So I caution us, as we have these conversations about what we should do now, about how we should organize our campaign, that we not turn our frustration and anger against each other. To those of you who say wearing t-shirts and standing out is just not enough, I remind you that our campaign in the spring, summer and fall of 2019 was incredibly effective, and part of that campaign was T-shirt Tuesdays and standouts. To those of you who insist we cannot do work to rule, I remind you that in that last campaign, we did engage in many actions that were a form of “work to rule,” like remaining silent during meetings and not volunteering on committees. We were very deliberate to pick actions that did not harm students, would inspire solidarity, not division, and engender community support. While our coming campaign will not look exactly like our last campaign, we cannot abandon the strategic practices that made it so successful:

  • We built solidarity within our membership, and demonstrated to each other, to the administration, to the school committee and to the mayor that we were united and unwilling to back down.

  • We began with moderate actions that engaged all of our membership and escalated to more forceful and assertive actions as the campaign—and negotiations—progressed.

  • We reached out to the community in multiple ways, and engaged its support, the fruits of which we still benefit from in our ongoing Parent Educator Collaborative.

  • We engaged in multiple types of visibility actions: literature distribution at community events, building standouts, rallies, lawn signs.

  • We engaged the press, which covered our negotiations and our campaign extensively.

  • We effectively utilized social media to publicize our campaign.

  • Eventually, we withdrew our participation from many voluntary activities and remained silent during staff meetings. By doing so, we put up road blocks that impeded central administrators from advancing their initiatives.

It seems clear to me that we must escalate more quickly in this campaign. To that end, we have already begun to organize:

  • We have purchased new T-shirts. They are in our office. (They are blue. They are simple in design. They are soft. We have sizes that will fit all body types—he, she, they.) We are working out the logistics of getting 2,200 t-shirts into your hands, so that when you put them on your backs, they will fit well, and we can begin T-Shirt Tuesdays (high school) and Wear it Wednesdays (pre-k, elementary, and middle).

  • We are planning actions that will show our solidarity to each other, to the administration, and to the community.

  • We are working out the logistics of how we can escalate quickly to actions that withhold our voluntary participation.

  • We are meeting with leaders in the parent community.

  • We are reaching out to the press and have already been interviewed by reporters.

  • We continue to build our social media presence.

  • We will join with the MTA in advocating for a soon-to-be-introduced bill in the state house to legalize strikes for public employees when employers stonewall negotiations.

As I said above, we need leaders in every building to form an effective Contract Action Team (CAT). The CAT is a vital part of coordinating actions at the building level to gain maximum participation. If you are an educator, you have the skills for this role. Will you join us in organizing your colleagues? If so, please sign up by clicking here. ******** Some members have commented to me that they thought in my last Ebulletin (“What are They Thinking”), I sounded a little disheartened. And perhaps there was a thread of that there. I always hold out hope that things might be different in the next negotiations--more collaborative. It is disheartening when they aren’t. But as a leader within this Association, I am anything but disheartened. For one because I know that we, the members of the NTA, have gotten very very good at running a contract campaign. I cannot remain disheartened long when I think of the power we have built together as union members. In the nineties, “interest based” or “collaborative” bargaining was all the thing. A standard book on the subject was “Getting to Yes.” We negotiate with a school committee, a school administration, and mayor that seem to know only how to say no. No to reasonable cost of living adjustments. No to reasonable salaries for Educational Support Professionals. No to addressing the coverage problem, the lack of technology support. No to parental leave and sick leave policies that allow us to care for our families, our children. It is disheartening that these are not interests we share with our bargaining partners. It is, however, most heartening to know that, united, WE, the members of the NTA, with the support of the Newton community, will get them to yes. Like it or not.

Social Media

As our negotiations process and campaign moves ahead, make sure you are following the NTA on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There will be many upcoming opportunities to send in photos of members from your building, to share action items with your network, and to keep the community informed of our progress.

Heather Dias Memorial Garden Fundraiser

Whimsical. Creative. Dedicated. Fun These are just a few of the attributes that Heather Dias brought to her fourth and fifth-grade classrooms at the Horace Mann Elementary School for twelve years. Students who had the opportunity to work and learn under her tutelage benefited from her belief that every child is entitled to a public education which ignites their curiosity and propels them into a lifelong pursuit of learning. Effective teaching is a craft built on talent, devotion and love. Through her relentless advocacy and student-centered instruction, Heather Dias repeatedly modeled what good teaching looks and feels like. Please help support the Horace Mann Parent Teacher collaboration in creating a memorial garden in her honor. This space will serve as an outdoor open classroom for future generations of young writers to find inspiration in their own small moments. Click here to contribute

MTA Winter Workshops for PDPs The MTA invites you to register for its 2023 Winter PDP Programs at 4 pm on Tuesday, December 20th! Learn with the MTA and Earn PDPs to use toward your license recertification! Choose from seven different online courses where you can earn 15 PDPs towards either English as a Second Language/Sheltered English Immersion or Special Education requirements for renewing your professional license. All courses are FREE to MTA members. Space is extremely limited for these courses to ensure an enjoyable and effective learning experience for participants. Registration will open on December 21st at 4 PM. Set a reminder now for your best chance at securing a seat in the program of your choice! Winter PDP Workshops Online Asynchronous Courses:

  • Fine-Tuning Phonics Instruction for Students with Dyslexia (K-5) 1/21 - 3/4

  • Teaching with the New Dyslexia Guidelines 1/30 - 3/13

  • Universal Design for Learning: Reaching All Students 2/1 - 3/15

Online Synchronous Courses: Zoom Meetings

  • Social Emotional Learning: Using SEL to Inspire Success In All Students. 2/21 & 2/23 (9am-3pm)

  • Authentic Family Engagement in Literacy 1/28 & 2/11 (9am-12pm)

  • Collaborative Model for Multilingual Learners with, or Suspected of having, a Disability 2/8 & 3/1 (4-7pm)

  • Educational Kaleidoscopes: Inclusive Strategies for Multi-lingual Learners 2/2 & 2/16 (4-7pm)

For more information, visit:

MTA New Member Trainings CREDIT COUNSELING AND LOAN FORGIVENESS: New members often have student debt. This up to 75-minute training provides guidance on how to handle debt while qualifying for loan forgiveness. Ongoing webinar link from MTA Benefits: webinars PROFESSIONAL TEACHER STATUS (PTS): 45-minute training on how teachers acquire PTS, and what their rights are before they get PTS. ESPs: RIGHTS ON THE JOB: This is a 30-45 minute training on the rights of ESPs both before and after they may pass a probationary period. It covers anti-discrimination laws, union rights, contractual rights, the evaluation process, and whistle-blower protections. CERTIFICATION/LICENSURE: 90-minute training explaining the sometimes labyrinthian process of getting a teaching license in Massachusetts. Provisional and Initial License Training Thursday, January 12, 4:00 PM via Zoom, summary and registration here: Acquiring and Renewing Your Professional License Thursday, January 26, 4:00 PM via Zoom, summary and registration here: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The MTA sponsors a few all-day sessions of Professional Development such as the Summer Conference in August, Winter Union Skills on February 4 and the Early Career Educator Conference on March 4th - save the date found here.



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