top of page
  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin September 11, 2022

Hope you enjoyed your first days back to school with your students!

In this issue:

Negotiations Update

As I said in my opening day remarks, negotiations have historically been extremely difficult in Newton. (If you would like to read my opening day remarks on negotiations, please click here.) As I said then, in the fall of 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2019, we returned to school without a new contract in place after the last contract had expired.

Critical Pieces of that Extremely Difficult History

  • In the fall of the 2009-2010 school year, the NTA and NPS agreed on a one-year contract with a $180 cost of living increase on the top step of the salary schedule only, which amounted to less than $1 per day for less than half of all NTA members.

  • In the late fall of 2011, we reached agreement with the NPS on a new contract that included concessions on health insurance, modest cost of living increases, new salary schedules with lower step increases, and a yearly postponement of step increases from September until March.

  • In the spring of 2013, the citizens of Newton approved a proposition 2 1/2 override, which provided a substantial increase in property tax revenue.

  • For the 2014-2015 school year, the City of Newton increased the school budget substantially.

  • Over the 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016 school years, the Newton Public Schools added 240 staff members (a 13% staffing increase).

  • In April of 2014, the school committee presented its opening proposal for a successor agreement for the 2014-2017 three year contract: They offered minimal cost of living increases, but conditioned these on the NTA agreeing to increase members' share of health insurance premiums; absent this concession, they offered 0% cost of living increases over three years, no changes to the anniversary date of step increases, and no changes to salary schedules.

  • Everything we got in the 2014-2015 one year contract and the 2015-2018 three year contract we had to fight for tooth and nail.

    • Based on the school committee's initial offer, the contract was solid.

    • Based on the contracts other unions in comparable districts were negotiating at the time, it was good.

    • Based on the fight we had to put up, it was great--and also quite disconcerting.

    • Based on what the district could afford and the sacrifices we had made over the previous six years, it was appalling.

Comparative history

  • The great recession lead to lost revenues for the City of Newton and the Newton Public Schools.

    • When the economy would recover was not clear.

    • Neither the state nor federal governments offered financial support to municipalities

    • Public employees, including educators, saw losses in numbers, in salaries, and in bargaining power across the country. Think Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

  • The economic downturn and consequent revenue losses caused by the 2020-2022 pandemic are not the same as those caused by Great Recession of 2009:

    • Current revenue losses are clearly temporary.

    • The federal government has offered substantial support to make-up those losses.

    • The pandemic came in the middle of the Red for Ed movement's challenge to anti-unionism and fiscal austerity measures. Think West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona. Think Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Denver. Think Dedham.

    • That movement was in a lull during the pandemic. It is not over. Think Brookline. Think Boston.

    • Newton's municipal unions (police, fire, public works, and others) have negotiated agreements with the City of Newton that provide three to five years of 3% per year cost of living increases, all awarded in their entirely on the first day of each contract year.

    • Throughout Massachusetts, including in districts comparable to Newton, unions are negotiating contracts that compare favorably with the contract we agreed to in 2019: solid contracts with reasonable cost of living increases, improved working conditions and leave benefits, and also measures to address equity.

History lessons

  • The City of Newton and the Newton School Committee are responsible for negotiating reasonable contracts with the NTA; they are also responsible for funding those contracts and funding the programs they offer students.

  • It is not the responsibility of the members of the NTA to fund the programs Newton offers its students.

  • Specifically, we do not offer concessions based on the city's financial circumstances, real or purported. What the School Committee takes in bad economic times, it does not return in good.

  • We have every reason to expect that we should retain and build on gains we made in our last contract.

Focus Groups

Stay tuned. As we develop our bargaining platform, we will soon be offering building and/or program level focus groups for you to share your concerns and feedback on our negotiations priorities.

Current members of our NTA Negotiations Team:

  • Michael Zilles, President, NTA

  • Elizabeth Ross del Porto, First Vice President, Angier Elementary

  • Liz Simpson, Second Vice President, Oak Hill Middle School

  • Christine Walsh, Second Release Officer and Treasurer, NTA

  • Michael Burtch, Unit A Member, Bigelow Middle School

  • Valerie Brunache Lewis, Unit C Member, Countryside Elementary School

  • Sue Cohen, Recording Secretary, Springboard Program

  • Brenna Green, Unit A Member, Cabot Elementary

  • Lynn Penczar, Unit A Member, Lincoln-Eliot Elementary

  • Elana Cutler, Unit A Member, Brown Middle

  • Derek Knapp, Unit A Member, Newton North High

  • Marcia Okun, Unit A Member, Newton South High

  • Jayme Ellis, Unit A Member, Burr Elementary

  • Ally Andrews, Unit B Member, Franklin, Horace Mann, and Lincoln-Eliot

  • Dan Rubin, Unit B Member, Newton South High

  • Sarah Wysocki, Unit C Member, Newton North High

  • Thuy Tuong, Unit C Member, Newton Early Childhood Program

  • Janette Patel, Unit C Member, Oak Hill Middle School

  • Tony Sbordone, Unit E Member, Ed Center

  • *Thomas Buchau, Unit E Member

  • Jason Leto, Field Representative, MTA

*New member since last update.

Fair Share Amendment

November 8th. That is the date when Massachusetts voters will decide whether those who earn more than one million dollars per year will pay their fair share of income taxes towards pre-k to 12 and higher education as well as transportation. To learn more about the Fair Share amendment and ways you can participate in your city or town, click here.

If you would like to join your NTA colleagues to mobilize support here in Newton, we have organized the following events:

Click here to sign up to phone bank for an hour from our NTA office between 4:00 and 7:00 on September 21, October 4, and October 19. Bring your laptops.

Phone banking is not what you think it is. You will be using a dialer that immediately puts you on the phone with a real person--no ringing, no answering machines, no waiting. You will be calling likely yes voters who will actually be glad to speak with you! And MTA will provide you with an easy script to follow.

Click here to sign up to canvas in Newton on Saturday, September 24, from 4:00 until 6:00.

Thanks to Mike Schlegelmilch for organizing this canvas, and an earlier canvas this summer!

Loan Forgiveness

I'm sure you have been reading about Biden's most recent plans to reduce student debt. That's currently making the headlines.But did you know that, as public educators, you also likely qualify for complete loan forgiveness? Last spring, the Biden administration made it much easier to qualify.

But in order to take advantage of this opportunity, you must apply before October 31, 2022.

Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver, the U.S. Education Department is making it possible for many full-time public servants, including school district employees, to qualify for immediate and total federal student loan forgiveness, or to be closer to qualify for total loan forgiveness in the near future.

Don't lose this opportunity! Applications must be in by October 31!

Borrowers will have to consolidate their non-Direct Federal student loans into the Direct Loan program and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness form to certify their employment before the deadline. More information is available at



bottom of page