Updated: Nov 8, 2022
In this issue:
Superintendent Search Committee
As you may already be aware, the Superintendent's Search Committee has come under some heightened scrutiny for its lack of representation.of all stakeholder. Initially, the committee had only one NTA member, Terri Bancroft. Subsequently, School Committee Chair Tamika Olszewski has appointed three additional parents to the search committee as well as another teacher, Tim Lesinski, from the original pool of applicants. In addition to appointing an additional educator, Tamika has also reached out to each of the NPS union presidents to invite them to participate in 1-1 conversations with the consultants, to which I have agreed. Both Terri and Tim reached out to NTA leadership for support and guidance. To provide this support, Chris and I first met with Terri and Tim, and together we decided that a good approach would be for them to join our Representative Assembly on November 2nd. We dedicated an hour of that RA to an open forum for members of the RA to meet Terri and Tim, and to share their views on what they are looking for in a new Superintendent. I structured the discussion by asking members to first share their views of the strengths of David Fleishman as a leader, then share where they perceived there to be a need for change, and finally to segue into a discussion of those characteristics we are looking for in a new superintendent. We followed this protocol in order to avoid having our opinions about David Fleishman's leadership lurk in the background as the "elephant in the room." The forum produced fantastic results, which you can read by clicking here. If you would like to provide additional feedback to Terri and Tim, they have shared this Google Form for you to do so. I continue to have reservations about the process the School Committee has created to search for a new Superintendent, as well as about the firm the School Committee has hired to conduct the search, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. That said, I have great confidence that both Terri and Tim will represent the voices of educators passionately and effectively. It remains to be seen whether those voices will ultimately be heard.
Mass Child Grants
The Newton Teachers Association has worked for many years with Massachusetts Child, a charitable corporation founded by MTA members in 1996 to help students struggling with financial need. Mass Child provides grants to the NTA so that members can support students and their families. You make qualifying purchases, the NTA reimburses you, and Mass Child reimburses the NTA. Please note that Mass Child does not reimburse individual members; all grant applications must go through the local association. Therefore, please do not fill out the online application on the Mass Child website. This is our local process for use of Mass Child Grant funds:
Contact Cindy Colantonio at NTA office (firstname.lastname@example.org) before purchasing items to be certain that the items you plan to purchase will qualify for reimbursement and that NTA still has Mass Grant Funds available.
Once you have approval, purchase the items and submit your receipts. (You can do this electronically via email or by sending them through the Pony.)
NTA will reimburse you directly right away. We will handle the submission to Mass Child for local reimbursement.
There are two types of grants available through Mass Child at this time of year, which can be used to address distinct student needs:
Standard grants can be used to reimburse purchases of clothing, shoes, hygiene products and eyeglasses, as well as school supplies that are not usually provided by the district such as backpacks, notebooks and pens. For example, you can use these grants to make sure that your students have appropriate winter clothing. Or you can use them to assist vocational school students with license fees, work clothing and/or other supplies that are not provided by the school.
Items must be purchased for particular students. Mass Child will not reimburse “bulk” purchases of items to be distributed to students throughout the year.
Mass Child standard grants cannot reimburse purchases of food or gift cards.
Mass Child grants cannot be used to purchase devices that would fall under a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or that are the responsibility of the district.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Student Wellness Grants:
You can also use the “Blue Cross Blue Shield Student Wellness Grant” to reimburse purchases of items that assist the physical, mental and emotional health of students experiencing financial need. This grant can be used to address food insecurities with grocery gift cards (sorry, we cannot reimburse restaurant gift cards). It can also be used for items that facilitate physical activity, such as athletic equipment, a bike helmet, or access to a program or activity that boosts self-esteem or physical well-being.
Again, before making any purchases, please contact Cindy Colantonio at the NTA office (email@example.com) to be certain that the items you will be purchasing will qualify for reimbursement and that NTA still has Mass Grant Funds available.
Newton Contributory Retirement System - Change in Regulation Last spring, several pending retirees contacted the NTA office for support regarding the calculation of their years of creditable service by the Newton Contributory Retirement Board (NCRB). They were concerned that they were not receiving full credit for all of their years of service, and, as a consequence, their pension payments would be reduced. Most of our Unit A and B members—employees who hold and work under DESE licenses--receive their pensions through the state run Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS). Staff who qualify for a pension, but do not qualify to be part of the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS), participate in the Newton Contributory Retirement System. Generally, these are employees who work in Unit C or Unit E positions, with some exceptions. Within the constraints of Massachusetts law, each local retirement board determines its method of calculating years of creditable service and sets this out in a “Supplementary Regulation.” So when members brought this issue to our attention, we checked this “Supplementary Regulation” to see if the Newton Retirement Office was properly calculating our members’ years of creditable service. In fact, when it calculated these employees’ years of employment with NPS, we did not think the NCRB was complying with its own Supplementary Regulation. These members had a slight variation from year to year in the number of hours they worked per week, but we did not think the slight variation should have resulted in the Newton Contributory Retirement Board prorating their years of creditable service, or reducing their pensions as a consequence. We secured MTA legal representation for those five members to help them appeal the calculation of their years of creditable service. Those appeals are pending, and we trust that the attorneys that MTA assigned to support them will represent them well. A further outcome was that the NCRB met and revised their Supplementary Regulations. Apparently, our advocacy on behalf or our members convinced them they needed to prevent any future misunderstanding or miscalculations. The new regulation can be found here. Going forward, as a practical matter, unless the number of hours per week an employee works falls below 20 hours per week, these revised regulations eliminate any need to prorate years of service based on hours, and thus protect our members’ from having their pensions miscalculated. These new regulations will apply to all employees who retire after their adoption on August 12, 2022. Please be aware that the change does not impact members who have already retired.
NTA Dues Deductions Payroll deductions for NTA/MTA/NEA membership dues will begin with the November 15th salary check and continue through May 31. Please examine your check stub to determine whether the amount deducted is correct. If you have paid your dues in cash, no deduction should appear. If you are paying your dues through payroll deductions, your stub should have a deduction item "NTA." You can find the amount of your bimonthly deductions depending on your membership classification here. Please call the NTA office (617-244-9562) between 8:30 and 4:00 p.m. on school days or email Cindy Colantonio (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
Do you want to know more about unions? How they serve us as members and as workers? How they balance the power between management and workers? Check out this short (5 min) introduction video (5 min) for a little Unions 101! And if you know someone in your building who hasn't joined the NTA yet, share this email with them and suggest they watch this short video!
MTA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee Conference The MTA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee Conference will be held in person on December 2nd and 3rd. This year’s conference program focuses on the theme, “From the roots up, shifting our culture with your union power, it starts with you." You can find registration information here. NTA will reimburse members for the cost of attending.
MTA Trainings for New Members
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: EVALUATION TRAINING for First Year Licensed Educators: This 90-minute training covers the basics of the Evaluation Process for licensed educators in PreK-12 locals. Thursday, November 10, 4:00 PM via Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3rP7VDy PROFESSIONAL TEACHER STATUS (PTS): 45-minute training on how teachers acquire PTS, and what their rights are before they get PTS. Monday, November 14, 4:00 PM via Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3eoSjna Monday, December 12, 4:00 PM via Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3emfGOp 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. Tuesday, November 15, 6:00 PM via Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3g1Gdkj Tuesday, December 13, 6:00 PM via Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3TgCBtl HIGHER ED RIGHTS TRAINING: In development 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 - Zoom registration link to follow Acquiring and Renewing Your Professional License - Thursday, January 26 - Zoom registration link to follow PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The MTA sponsors a few all-day sessions of Professional Development such as the Summer Conference in August and the Early Career Educator Conference on March 4th. Other PD may be available in your local by request. To schedule any of these trainings please contact Josh Levit: email@example.com