More than 80 percent of Newton South High School teachers signed a petition asking Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to not attend the graduation ceremony that will take place on June 6. The petition is protesting the city’s inability to reach a contract agreement for educators.
The school district works under three-year contracts—the last one, which expired last year, was issued a one-year extension. The contract still hasn’t been decided, which is not uncommon according to Michael Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association.
“Historically, we’ve never signed a new three-year agreement when the old one expires and people are just fed up with the school committee and the mayor’s office thinking it’s okay,” Zilles said. “It’s just business as usual, you know, you don’t finish a contract and you go in for the year without a contract, no big deal.
“It is a big deal for people. They’re really tired of it. They’re really frustrated that the district can’t come to a settlement with their representatives in a timely fashion.”
The contract action team, a group of 12 to 15 teachers, started circulating the petition about two weeks before they presented it to the mayor. They were only going to follow through with it if the petition received the support of at least 80 percent of the teachers. Around 85 to 90 percent signed, Zilles said, adding that it’s more likely that the remaining teachers were missed when the petition was being circulated than said teachers actually declining to sign.
When the last contract was signed in 2011, the teachers were given conservative raises, Zilles said. Since it was during the recession, they understood, but now they want more significant increases in their pay.
The petition was presented to Fuller at the School Committee meeting on May 29. The mayor was surprised by the proposal, according to Zilles, who did not attend the meeting but talked to the people who spoke with Fuller. Fuller did not respond to a request for comment.
Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Staff