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Woburn schools closed today as teachers strike enters fourth day

Danielle Chisholm, with her two daughters Maura, 8, and Keira, 8, on Wednesday joined parents, teachers and students in a rally on Woburn Common in support of striking public school teachers.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Despite a judge’s order threatening hefty fines, the union representing striking Woburn teachers will be on the picket line again Thursday, when public schools will remain closed for a fourth straight day, officials said.

A spokesperson for Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin confirmed that Thursday classes have been canceled because the Woburn Teachers Association and the School Committee failed to reach an agreement Wednesday after a full day of negotiating.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a Middlesex Superior Court judge ruled that the WTA and Barbara Locke, the union president, were in contempt of court for violating an injunction order issued Monday ordering an end to the strike and instructing teachers to return to the classroom. The union now faces fines of $40,000 per day beginning Thursday, plus $5,000 each day the strike continues, according to a copy of the ruling shared by Galvin’s office.

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Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s meeting concluded, Locke, said union members are not backing down.

“I’m not worried about paying for it,” she said, according to video from WCVB-TV. “We’re worried about the children, we’re not worried about the fines.”

In a statement Wednesday night, Galvin and the School Committee urged teachers “to stop this illegal job action, and return to work in the best interest of Woburn’s children.”

Locke said some progress was made Wednesday but claimed that the School Committee ended negotiations without offering a counter-proposal to the union.

“It is clear that they do not want to get this done,” she said.

Union members say they are fighting for pay increases for paraprofessionals, or teacher aides; smaller class sizes; and twice-a-week physical education classes for elementary school students.

Contract talks have been ongoing for more than a year between the School Committee and the union, which represents about 500 teachers, nurses, teacher aides, and others.

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School district leaders have said the sides reached a tentative agreement in October, but union members did not ratify that deal.

Massachusetts teachers are barred from striking under state law, though recent teacher strikes, or at least the threats of them, have largely proved effective, as contract agreements have followed shortly after each one.

Material from prior Globe coverage was used in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.