Newton teachers plan job action to protest lack of contract

Members of the Newton Teachers Association rallied outside Newton City Hall on Aug. 28.
Members of the Newton Teachers Association rallied outside Newton City Hall on Aug. 28.David Ryan

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Some 15 months into collective bargaining negotiations and two months after its old contract expired on Aug. 31, the Newton Teachers Association is taking its next step to pressure the School Committee into settling a new contract.

Starting Nov. 1, members of the union will suspend participation in voluntary committees on the city, high school, middle school, elementary school, and prekindergarten levels.

The job action is coming on the heels of a three-day strike by Dedham teachers that ended this week with the ratification of a new contract.


According to the Newton Teachers Association, the job action is intended to affect the administration, mayor, and School Committee, rather than students.

Across the Newton Public Schools, union members will suspend participation in more than 50 committees, including the Vaping and E-Cigarette Working Group, Understanding Our Differences in the elementary schools, the middle school Geography Bee Committee, and the Graduation Ceremony Committee at the high schools.

Members have already been silent in full faculty meetings since the school year began, and the union plans to continue to apply pressure with different job actions each month the contract is unsettled, eventually suspending participation in professional development activities in 2020 if negotiations are still underway.

“We’re gradually escalating from one kind of meeting to the other,” said Mike Zilles, the teachers association president.

The contract that was to expire in August 2018 was extend for one year. The School Committee and union began negotiations with about 60 items on the table and are down to about a dozen, School Committee chair Ruth Goldman said.

She said about 18 meetings have been held in the past 15 months.

Zilles said the most contentious item that’s left is cost-of-living increases.


The union is asking for a 12 percent increase over four years, Zilles said in August, on top of the 4 percent step increases most teachers already receive each year.

Goldman said the negotiations aren’t taking any longer than is usual in the three-year contract cycle, citing the teachers contract that expired in 2009 but wasn’t settled until 2011. She said teachers are the most important part of the schools, but the School Committee must consider the whole budget and what it can afford.

Goldman said boycotting voluntary committees is “disruptive and distressing” and “is affecting the morale in the district and ability to do certain important things and committees, such as School Council and the Race and Achievement Committee.”

Sophia Aiello, a Newton Centre parent of four children, said the job actions might affect her children’s education at Angier Elementary School and Charles E. Brown Middle School, but she still supports the measures.

“Do I think it would affect our children negatively? Yes,” she said. “But I think it’s very important that a message is sent — the message needs to be clear. It’s a cliche to say, ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,’ but I don’t think a lot of parents realize exactly how critical all these extras are that these teachers do.”

Samantha Drysdale can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com. The Boston Globe is expanding its Newton coverage in partnership with Boston University. Visit bostonglobe.com/newton.