Top Story, Newton

Newton Teachers Association Reaches Contract, Ends Strike

After a strike that closed all Newton Public Schools for 11 days, the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) reached a contract with the Newton School Committee (NSC) and announced schools will reopen Monday.

“We are … thrilled to settle a new four-year contract that honors the tremendous work our teachers do – a contract the city can afford – a contract that serves our students,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in an email announcement Friday night.

The new teachers’ contract includes higher cost-of-living adjustments, up to 60 days of parental leave, and a side deal that promises a social worker in all but three school buildings by 2025.

“This contract reflects our values including respect for our educators,” the NSC said in an email.

Newton teachers had been working without a contract for the 2023–24 school year thus far, and had been in tense contract negotiations with the NSC since 2022.

By Friday, the union accrued $625,000 in fines for violating a state law that prohibits public employees from striking.

Two parents in the district have filed suits against the teachers’ union, claiming emotional damages to their children as a result of the extended school closure.

“The increase in screen time and disruption to their education, as a result of this illegal strike, has caused major concern on behalf of these parents for the mental well being of their children,” Newton parents Allison and David Goldberg wrote in their filing.

A lawyer for the NTA countered by arguing the intervention by parents in the court proceedings is not valid.

“It is not the appropriate vehicle for third parties to seek to pursue outside legal theories or damages,” staff counsel Laurie Houle wrote. “The parents here have no right to intervene.”

On Thursday, the NSC voted to cancel February vacation, a week-long break that was scheduled to begin the 19th of the month, to make up for instruction lost due to the strike. The school committee said it would be too difficult to make up the days at the end of the school year.

As the Monday of the scheduled vacation week is Presidents’ Day, canceling the break only returned four school days to the calendar. State law requires the district to complete 180 days of school before June 30.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey also stepped in on Thursday, asking a Middlesex Superior Court judge to appoint an arbitrator for the contract negotiations, had the parties not reached an agreement by Friday afternoon.

According to Fuller’s email announcement, the NSC and the NTA will vote to ratify the new contract next week.

In a Friday night press conference, Newton South High School teacher Ryan Normandin said the strike set a precedent for other districts in Massachusetts.

“We taught every other district in this state what will happen if they try to balance their budgets on the backs of our students and educators,” Normandin said.

February 3, 2024

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