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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin, March 7, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Last week I began my EBulletin by stating: "What an awful week for educators all over Massachusetts."

Well, there is good news this week. Governor Baker, under pressure from the MTA members from across the state, the House and Senate, and President Biden, moved educators up on the list for eligibility for vaccines. He did so reluctantly and snarkily--stating that this meant some people over 65 or with two co-morbidities would get their own vaccines delayed. But we will take what we can get, and if Charlie Baker gives us vaccines but no love, well, so be it.

But the bad news did continue, with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voting on Friday, March 5, to grant Commissioner Riley the authority to force districts across the state to bring students back for five day per week, full in person learning. As things now stand, elementary students are required to return by April 5, middle by the first week in May, with the high school return date not yet determined.

It is all coming at us at a pace too fast to process.

Survey Results

Thanks to all of you who filled out the survey last week.

Here are the major takeaways:

We had a much higher participation rate among elementary educators, which is to be expected, given that their students will be returning to full in person learning soonest.

Educators feel more comfortable in schools after the introduction of improved ventilation and surveillance testing. These made a huge difference in member comfort levels:

And it was also clear that adding student surveillance testing will further help staff feeling of safe.

People still feel nervous about relaxing the social distancing guideline of remaining six feet apart. But surveillance testing and vaccination make a huge difference in how members feel about this:

At the time of the survey, 15% of participating NTA members had already been vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine. These numbers will undoubtedly go up over the next few weeks.

Regarding combining cohorts for students to return to more in person learning, the date of implementation mattered enormously for member support--a variable that has, unfortunately, mostly been taken out of our hands by the state.

And of the many concerns that members shared with us about returning students to in person learning--not having students return until educators had the vaccination first was the concern mentioned most often. You can see the full aggregate results of the survey by clicking here (without individual comments).

Surveillance Testing Update

On site surveillance testing for staff began this week at the two high schools. The reports I've received are that it went astonishingly well, especially given the tight timeframe in which it all had to be put together. Kudos to all the volunteers who made it happen!

Please do not forget: This program makes us all safer. We all have to participate, and doing so is easy: Take home a sample kit once a week and return it the next. Repeat. The higher the participation, the safer we all are.

To do so, you will need to first fill out a new consent form. Then, NPS will upload this data to JCM analytics. You will then be able to access the JCM testing site on your smartphone to register. JCM provides you with a scan code, which you use when you pick up and drop off your testing kit. It's easy, convenient, and effective. Let's stay as safe as possible!

How to find a mask that filters well, fits well, and is comfortable

We now have improved ventilation, surveillance testing of staff and students, and, soon, vaccination available for all staff. But masking is still critical. I shared guidance with you last week on how to find the safest masks that are comfortable to wear. It's great guidance. Check it out: “Getting the most from your mask: where to buy and how to wear masks that can block >90% of respiratory particles, If you would rather learn by watching than reading, take a look at the YouTube videos created by Aaron Collins, starting here with this incredibly helpful overview of what to look for in a mask, with specific recommendations.

NTA General Membership Meeting

The School Committee was not able to put the tentative agreement on the agenda for this week. They anticipate it will be introduced next week, and then voted on at the March 22nd meeting. So please hold Thursday, March 25, at 4:00 as a date for an NTA GMM.

MTA New Member Workshops Professional Teacher Status and pre-PTS rights: This training will show you the ins and outs of how to get professional teacher status and what your rights are before you get it. Trainer: Ashley Adams Register by clicking below on the date and time you choose. 3/18: 3:30-4:30 3/24: 6:30-7:30 3/30:4:30-5:30 Loan Forgiveness and Credit Counseling: Learn about managing your debt and qualifying for complete forgiveness of your college loans. Trainer: Todd Friedhaber Register by clicking below on the session you choose. 3/10: 6-7:30 3/15: 4:30-6 3/22: 4-5:30 3/24: 6-7:30 3/29: 6-7:30

MTA Licensure Workshops

You are invited to the 2021 MTA Licensure Workshops! Register today! Want to learn more about the licensure process? Join MTA Education Policy Specialist Beth Tripathi for presentations on licensure for a variety of career stages. Please read the descriptions carefully to determine which presentation is right for your licensure needs. Sessions: 3/11/21, 4:00PM - 5:30PM, Educator Licensure: Professional & Renewal 4/6/21, 6:00PM - 7:30PM Educator Licensure: Professional & Renewal 4/21/21, 4:00PM - 5:30PM, Vocational Technical Educator Licensure 5/3/21, 6:00PM - 7:30PM Educator Licensure: Basics for Provisional and Initial Licensure Early Career Educators, to register for a March 2nd workshop just for you, click here.

MTA's Education Support Professionals March Workshop Series

Available for all Unit C and Unit D members:

  • Legal Rights of ESPs – March 9, 3:30 - 5:00

  • What ESPs Need to Know about Your Retirement – March 18, 3:30 - 5:00

  • Unions, Families, and Work: A Balancing Act – March 23, 3:30 - 5:00

  • Licensure Basics for ESPs – March 25, 4:00 - 5:30

MTA Open Enrollment for Disability Insurance Begins March 29

NTA strongly encourages members to participate in the MTA group UNUM long-term disability plan. We do not advise that you purchase short term disability insurance, as our contract provides the protections you will need if you are disabled for the period short term disability insurance would cover.

Click on the image above to learn more.

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Please take care and stay well. Mike



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