As strike drags on, parents come out to speak up

Newton’s public schools are closed again for Wednesday. as the teacher strike rolls into a 12th day.

On Tuesday, in addition to the usual press conferences held by the Newton Teachers Association and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, parents spoke with the press about the impacts of the strike and what they want to see happen now.

First, a group of parents held a press conference outside the Horace Mann School to call on the city’s leadership to end the strike by

“My family and I moved from Texas specifically to Newton because of the great reputation for the strong public schools and the good education that those schools have given our daughter,” Lindsey Gulden said. “Newton teachers do their very best despite habitual underfunding of schools, and we are proud to stand with the teacher as they fight for what’s right, even when it’s hard.”

Gulden added that she feels “dismay at the leadership of Newton, specifically Mayor Fuller and the School Committee.”

“I have been very disheartened to see how they are actively attempting to damage the reputation of the very people, the educators, who are striking to save the gem of Newton, our public schools,” Gulden said.

Jessica Champion, a mother of three special needs students in Newton schools, spoke about how she sometimes substitute teaches because it’s so difficult to find substitutes to work for the low pay the job offers.

“Productive negotiations can’t take place without all of the necessary adults at the table, and our mayor has been conspicuously absent. Not just from negotiations, but from her constituency,” Champion said. “The only thing she seems to make time for are press conferences where she, in my opinion, heavily skews the facts to fit her narrative.”

Later, as the NTA and the mayor prepared to have their press conference at the Education Center, parents showed up outside that building to demand an end to the strike.

“I’m feeling really depressed about it,” Amanda Kovalcik, a mother of three, said. “I feel like, if this can just happen because adults just decide not to show up for their job, what is public education? My children have a right to a public education, and the adults are failing.”

Lital Asher-Dotan, a mother of two Newton South High School students and one Oak Hill Middle School student, also urged the NTA to call off the strike and return to the classroom.

“Open the schools, now, tomorrow,” Asher-Dotan said.

“This issue extends beyond the inconvenience of an interrupted schedule,” she continued. “It’s about the well-being of our students.”

At the NTA press conference inside, Underwood Elementary School psychologist Elizabeth Hamblin, who has four kids in Newton public schools. talked about student well-being, too.

“Being in the schools, it is so clear that we do not have enough mental health support,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin said it’s difficult finding and keeping support staff because the district doesn’t pay them enough.

“Mental health for kids is a national crisis,” she said. “By committing to full-time social workers and livable wages for Unit C, we help our teachers be able to do their best teaching in an environment that proactively supports our students.”

The NTA was scheduled to meet with the School Committee at 9 p.m. Tuesday night, with Mayor Fuller expected to join that meeting, her first time at the bargaining table in person.