Newton Teachers’ Contract Negotiations Stall After All-Night Bargaining

The Newton School Committee (NSC) and the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) ended a night of negotiations Friday morning without a deal, according to an NTA report.

“Despite bargaining through the night, the School Committee ended negotiations with striking Newton Educators at 6 a.m. leaving unresolved a return-to-work agreement and a commitment on securing social workers for every school,” the NTA press release said.

On Thursday, in an email to Newton Public Schools families, the NSC said money remained the only gap between the NTA and NSC contract proposals, as the two sides had reached agreement on particulars like parental leave and social workers.

“We have agreed on how to address issues of class size and social workers in our buildings,” the NSC wrote. “Now it is just about the money.”

In the press release, the NTA said the two sides had reached a complete contract agreement, including an agreement on finances. The NTA said the proposal also included a return-to-work agreement.

“After [NSC Chair Chris] Brezski publicly declared that money remained the only issue separating the NTA and School Committee, the union significantly adjusted its financial proposal,” the press release reads. “By 4 a.m., the financial proposals between the two parties were identical.”

Newton North High School Teacher Denise Cremin said the NSC then began to renegotiate the time-on-learning agreement, an item that had already been agreed upon.

“Something that we thought had been completely settled, they were now coming back and saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, we want to make some changes here,’” Cremin said.

In a Thursday evening press conference, Newton South High School teacher Ryan Normandin said the NTA’s proposal at the time was within the bounds of the NSC’s financial limits.

“This proposal works within the purported financial restrictions of the School Committee,” Normandin said.

As NTA demonstrators chanted in the background of Thursday’s press conference, Brezski said the NTA’s proposal did not fit with the city’s finances.

“We have put forth an incredibly competitive package, and one that we are proud of,” Brezski said. “In contrast, the union’s proposal is not grounded in any reality or any competitive analysis.”

Brezski said the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the statewide teachers union, has shaped the NTA’s proposals, especially for cost-of-living adjustments.

“The union’s proposal, best I can tell, is based on advocacy from the Massachusetts Teachers Association for [cost-of-living adjustment] percentages that one district paid to their striking teachers,” Brezski said. “One district. But people don’t pay their bills with percentage points, they pay their bills with real dollars.”

In an email to NPS families, the NSC reiterated this claim.

“The Massachusetts Teachers Association, who is leading elements of this strike effort and leading elements of the negotiation at the bargaining table, isn’t concerned about the aftermath of what’s left in its wake,” the School Committee wrote.

Cremin denied that the MTA has authored or influenced any NTA contract proposals.

“The Newton Teachers Association is the body that is negotiating this contract,” Cremin said. “We do have support from the Massachusetts Teachers Association in that they work for us, not the other way around.”

February 2, 2024