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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin: September 24

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Click above to support your colleagues at the negotiations/mediation sessions.

See below for more information.

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to you today to press upon you the urgency of our current contract campaign. We are experiencing unprecedented ways in which school leadership is emboldened to force its will upon us.

In negotiations, the school committee is proving itself willing to use every power advantage the law grants school districts in their dealings with unions.

Beginning with Anna Nolin’s August 22nd “Welcome Back Colleagues” email, we have also witnessed a new form of administrative "leadership": "management by directive." This is not the way things have ever been done in Newton. There are two, possibly related, reasons for this shift.

It's possible this is simply the management style that Anna Nolin brings to the district. Would this mean that Dr. Nolin was brought in precisely in order to make sure that decisions made at the central administrative level are heeded in the buildings--that there is a perceived need to "tighten things up" in Newton, and reduce what is left of the autonomy and professional respect educators once enjoyed here?

Whether the above is true, it is quite evidently a calculated effort by the School Committee, its lawyers, and Anna Nolin to undermine and interfere with our concerted union actions.

This was evidenced first in the strike petition the school committee filed immediately after our defiance of Anna Nolin's directive to attend the opening day at South. It continues in the directives being issued by principals that members participate on voluntary committees from which they had "un-volunteered."

In past contract battles, including the most recent in 2019, we witnessed principals standing with union members in their actions. Now Anna Nolin, the School Committee, and its lawyers are pitting principals against union members. They are advising or directing principals to give directives to members to engage in work that has historically been voluntary. They have directed principals to give testimony at the DLR that our refusal to attend convocation and our silence in staff meetings are strike actions. They have directed principals (and some Unit B members) to record whether members are silent during staff meetings and PD.

We can all see the dire consequences of this shift — it is damaging relationships and sowing mistrust. And the damage will likely far outlive our current contract battle.

The legal advantage the school committee and central administration has is stark.

When the Newton School Committee filed a petition with the DLR for impasse mediation in July, within a couple of weeks, and without even the benefit of a hearing, the DLR granted their petition and immediately assigned a mediator. If we had refused to engage in mediation, the school committee would have moved us as quickly as possible to a "final impasse" in order to impose its last best offer.

When the school committee filed a strike petition for boycotting the opening day convocation and for being silent in staff meeting, we were hauled into a hearing within two days, and even though the DLR has not yet issued its decision, it will do so soon. Even if the DLR rules in our favor, it will likely do so in such a narrow fashion, and so close to the immediate facts of the original petition, that it will keep the case open to the introduction of "new facts." Hence the directives principals are issuing to members to continue volunteering for committees or the directives they and some of our Unit B members themselves have received to record who is participating and who is silent during professional development.

And the public relations advantage they have is stark as well. They can push send on an email and it goes out to the entire NPS community. The mayor can push send on an email, and it goes out the wider Newton community. They feel as though they can lie with impunity.

I come to you with this sense of urgency in the hope that this does not lead to a dismay or resignation, but to a renewal of your resolve.

Because our power lies in the fact that we are the Newton Public Schools. WE teach and counsel and support the students of this city, and the parents and residents of Newton know this. Our power lies in the work we do, in how very good we are at our jobs, in the fact that, without us, there are no Newton Public Schools. In the fact that the community trusts us far more than they trust anyone in a political or administrative position of power.

Our power lies in our solidarity. I write this email to implore you: stick with the NTA. Whenever possible, in work to rule, if you are not sure, err on the side of solidarity with the union. Come to our school committee actions. Speak at public comment. Join us for as a silent observer at a mediation session, and see for yourself what is happening. Attend our rallies. Support your colleagues by handing out flyers at their back to school night actions. Wear your t-shirts. Join us for a City Hall rally, tentatively scheduled for October 26.

Stick with your union! Stick up for your dignity! Demand respect!

Mediation/Negotiations Update

We met two times this week for "shuttle diplomacy: mediation", with the mediator going back and forth between us and the school committee. On Monday, they presented a proposal with a small shift up in their COLA proposal. We gave them back a counter-proposal with a small shift down in our COLA proposal. They said they could not respond to that proposal until they had authorization from the full committee.

On Thursday, they did not proposal to our COLA proposal. Instead, they presented a unit C only proposal with no change to the COLA and a couple of very minor changes. They told us that they already paid Unit C members very competitively. They were trying to trap us into refuse their proposal completely--which, in fact, is all it deserved--in order to declare we are at impasse on Unit C and begin the process of imposing their last best offer. We did not fall for the trick, and countered in a way that avoided their trap.

Silent Observers at Mediation Sessions

Silent observers have told us they were really glad they attended. We have a full contingent for October 2, but have added a new date on October 25.

Sign up here to participate. (Your names will not appear on the Sign up Genius form.) Sessions on October 2 and 25, in room 210 of the Ed Center. Sessions. They begin at 4:15. Please try to arrive at 4:00 so that we can introduce you to the process.

School Committee Meeting Visibility

On Monday, September 11 over 200 members of the NTA came out to the first meeting of the Newton School Committee this school year. We were loud, respectful, articulate and passionate! You can see our action and hear member testimony on our NTA Facebook and Instagram pages.

The next school committee meeting is Wednesday, September 27, at 6:30 p.m. Please arrive by 6:15 to line the halls as we wait for them to arrive.

Sign up here to let us know you are coming!

We will be offering pizza and non-alcoholic beverages at the NTA office beginning at 5:15.

Continue to Wear you NTA T-shirts!

Middle School/Elementary/NECP: Wear it Wednesday!

High School: T-shirt Tuesday!

Ed Center: Tuesday or Wednesday

Farmers' Market Visibility Tuesday Afternoon or Saturday Morning

Thanks to the many people who did visibilities this summer as well as those who delivered signs, we now have 500 "Support Newton Educators" signs posted in Newton, and the number is growing every day.

Markets will be open until mid-October. This is a great opportunity to build community support!

Silent Meetings

Unless we are hear otherwise, be silent at any meeting led by an administrator. Silent Meeting Guidelines and FAQs

  • Participate in the meeting in ways that do not require you to speak: take notes, complete tasks on your computer if requested to do so.

    • If the meeting sends you off to work in small groups away from the administrator, then speak with your colleagues in these groups.

Say "No" to Volunteer Work

Don’t volunteer to do things that aren’t part of your regular job.

  • Don’t volunteer if the answer to this question is “no”: “Is this something I do as part of my primary job in NPS?”

    • We are not at this time organizing for members to not volunteer for after school stipended activities with students, e.g., clubs, theater, sports, though we are considering including these activities during the winter season.

  • If you’re wondering whether to participate in any voluntary activity, ask your building rep or CAT captain.

Work Contractual Hours

Don’t be available for meetings, consults, emails, etc. outside of your contract hours.

  • If you have bus duty and are responsible for student safety, you of course, will not leave the students.

    • For Unit C members: fill out and submit a timesheet for the additional time outside of your paid hours. Keep a copy of the timesheet.

    • For other units: Keep a record of any additional time you spend after school to keep students safe.

    • There are funds within the METCO budget to pay for supervision of the METCO students before and after school. Anyone doing this should be compensated for it.

If you come in early or stay late to do planning, grading, or other preparation work, please use your "Do not Disturb" door hangers.

In solidarity, Mike Zilles, President Newton Teachers Association


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