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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

Response to Dr. Nolin's Email to Staff Concerning Voluntary Activities

Dear Colleagues

New Superintendent Dr. Anna Nolin sent out an email today in which she cited me as in support of members taking on voluntary actions this summer and fall that are paid.

Certainly, in the literal sense, Dr. Nolin quotes me correctly.

As I said in an email I sent out last June, the NTA leadership was making a "course correction" regarding stipended activities.

This is what I wrote:

"In the light of this feedback, we are asking members to make their own decision about whether to participate in voluntary activities that are paid.

We are still asking ALL members to not participate in voluntary activities that are unpaid."

The spirit of this communication to members was not, however, to say: "Go for it!" "Sign up for as anything that tweaks your interest, as long as there is some compensation associated with it."

I understand that Dr. Nolin would like to begin this year on a positive note, would like staff to participate in the offerings the district is making available, and for them return to school ready to engage in meaningful change based on what they have learned, and what they care about.

I would like this too. (Although there is a history with Newton adopting new initiatives--until the next one comes along.) But we as a union are in a very tough position right now. We have negotiated twice since the school year ended, and will negotiate again this Thursday. The School Committee isn't budging much at all --and they have made no movement at all on cost of living adjustments. None.

We all want to give Dr. Nolin the best chance to succeed. I wish the mayor and the school committee had dealt her a better hand. But she has inherited contract negotiations that are highly contentious. Our relationship, as union members, with our leaders has become unavoidably confrontational--to win a fair contract, as always, we must fight. That's the Newton way.

And so, I will reiterate the spirit of modified work to rule. We will do our jobs, and we will continue, as always, to do them well--with the same exceptional commitment we always give to our students. AND we will not allow the district to further its initiatives on our backs. We will be silent in meetings, not volunteer for any unpaid work, and, where it is possible for individuals to do so, we will also discontinue voluntary paid activities, particularly those that are rewarded with token stipends. We know it is not possible for all members to disengage from paid, stipended work. But to the extent you can, please do.

If you have questions, please contact your building reps, or me. Do not turn to administration to interpret for you what the union is "sanctioning" or "prohibiting." It is not for administrators to interpret union actions for NTA members.

As a union leader, I neither sanction, nor permit. I--and all of the NTA leadership-- ask NTA members to rally to our common cause, We ask you to withhold your labor to the extent that it is above and beyond your contractual obligations.

In solidarity,




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