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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin November 8, 2020

Dear Colleagues: We just made it through what felt to me like one of the most stressful weeks of my life.  This Saturday, the Associated Press finally called the election for Joe Biden, after a painful week of waiting for the votes to be counted.  In his speech on Saturday night, it was great to hear the President-Elect of the United States of America speak like, well, a President. What a change!  But apart from the tone, I was heartened by Biden's introduction of Jill Biden:"Folks, as I said many times before, I'm Jill's husband. ... Jill’s a mom, a military mom, an educator. And she has dedicated her life to education. But teaching isn't just what she does. It's who she is. For American educators, this is a great day for y'all. You're gonna have one of your own in the White House." Whoa, imagine that: An educator in the White House! Negotiations Last week, the day after our General Membership Meeting, I sent out an email informing you that the membership of the NTA had ratified the MOA with the School Committee: 913 members (95.4%) voted in favor of ratification, 44 (4.6%) voted against.  Last Thursday, November 5th, the School Committee voted 7 to 0, with Matt Miller and Tamika Olszewski abstaining, to reject the MOA.  Just as our membership had the right to vote to reject the MOA, so too did the School Committee. That said, how the School Committee does so matters, and in this particular case, we believe they have broken the law by engaging in bad faith bargaining. As a first step, we will be pressing charges at the Department of Labor Relations to bring the case to immediate mediation.  What does this mean for the NTA, and for the MOA? The School Committee stated that, until we reach a new agreement, most of the provisions in the agreement will remain in place, and they will honor most them. That said, one way or another, we will end up back at the bargaining table. One of the first things we will need to know is--how much of this agreement they intend to honor.  There are four areas where they the implied they did not to honor the agreement, and which underlie the School Committee's no vote: 1. We negotiated for members to be able to work from home when working remotely. While the Committee members spoke a lot about not really agreeing on what some of the language in the agreement meant, we don't really see how there could be any ambiguity in how to interpret this language. The School Committee Negotiations Team came to an agreement with us, then changed their minds. That said, we will listen to their concerns. 2. We negotiated for a generous policy for members to be partially paid if they must take an unpaid leave because they live with a household member who is at high risk. We have already spoken about this with district leaders about this. Both sides agree there was a genuine and honest misunderstanding, the consequence of mistakes, not malice. I  see no reason why we cannot reach a compromise interpretation of the policy that would not require a rejection of the entire agreement.  3. The School Committee seemed especially concerned that signing an agreement would reduce their flexibility, so they worried aloud in ways that made me wonder if they intend to reach any agreement with us at all. They seem committed to keeping negotiations open and ongoing. There may be the need to renegotiate parts of the agreement--but the whole agreement cannot be held perpetually hostage to the district's need for flexibility. The parties must, by law, bargain so as to reach agreement, even if this would prohibit the School Committee from making changes unilaterally. That doesn't mean they cannot make changes--just that they would have to negotiate those changes. 4. Finally, and this is closely related to three above, there was a heavy push from some parts of the parent community on the School Committee to reject the agreement because it would give the NTA "veto power" over introducing a hybrid plan in the high schools.  The NTA doesn't operate that way. We don't "veto" proposals from the School Committee. But we absolutely do expect that, if the School Committee wants to implement a hybrid schedule in the high schools, it has an obligation to bargain with the the NTA. That's the law.  More importantly, we believe that if the district does introduce more in-person learning opportunities for students and staff at the high school level, that these will be better if they are negotiated with the NTA, rather than implemented unilaterally by the district.  In short, good faith bargaining requires the district to trade in their flexibility to act unilaterally for an obligation to work collaboratively. That's what it means to reach and ratify an agreement. We will continue to reach out, and bargain in good faith. But we are concerned that the members of the School Committee Negotiations Team may have put themselves in a position where they do not have an straightforward  path forward to do the same.  Dues Chris Walsh sent members the below notification on Friday:  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, if any, 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 ( if you have any questions. Dates and Deadlines The open enrollment period for Flexible Spending Accounts for 2021 begins tomorrow, November 2, and runs through November 20. The Human Resources Office recently sent out an email. You can also find information about the program on the HR webpage, here MTA Opportunities NEW! MTA Workshops: Racial Justice is Education Justice!  Racism is multi-layered and can be contentious.  But silence and inaction reinforce the status quo. Silence communicates to students of color that racism does not matter enough to warrant attention and, by omission, invalidates their experiences, perspectives, identities, and lives. White students, on the other hand, often see racism being accepted and normalized, without acknowledgement or accountability.  In this moment of national reckoning, educators have an opportunity to re-envision their approach to instruction in a manner that is relevant to the psycho-emotional development of all students.  These interactive workshops will provide educators with tools to increase their critical consciousness and to expand their desire to eliminate the effects of racism and other forms of oppression within our schools and communities. The three workshops are design to inspire dialogue around issues of racial justice in education.   Sessions Regulate to Respond: How to Handle Offensive Comments: Thursday, Nov. 12 @ 4:00pm  What to Do With Whiteness: Thursday, Nov. 19 @ 4:00pm  REGISTER HERE MTA Professional Development: New Teacher/Early Career Educators Conference The MTA’s New Member Committee is pleased to announce that the Early Career Educators Conference (ECEC) will be held on Zoom Saturday, November 14, 2020. The ECEC is designed for PK-12 teachers, paraprofessionals and higher education members in their first five years of practice.  It presents early career educators with the perfect opportunity to meet with fellow educators and learn how to strengthen their skills. Given the current situation with the pandemic and remote teaching, the New Member Committee has designed a program to support educators through their current challenges. This one-day conference offers ten 45-minute programs, including workshops on technology, racial justice and self-care.  The agenda for the day will run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with a Keynote Session and three workshop sessions. This conference is FREE for MTA members and SEAM members. Find a list of workshops and register here. *************** "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Please take care and stay well. Mike   Mike Zilles, President Newton Teachers Association



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