Mayor: Teacher strike ‘would harm our children’

On the eve of an expected teacher union strike vote, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller is urging the Newton Teachers Association not to go on strike.

“I know that a strike by the Newton Teachers Association would harm our children and disrupt the lives of our parents/caregivers,” Fuller wrote in an email newsletter to the community Wednesday night. “I urge the Newton Teachers Association to keep these negotiations at the bargaining table among the adults and with the mediator … and to keep our students in the classroom.”

Fuller said she had heard from parents across the city expressing “a lot of disappointment, frustration, anger, and dismay.”

Earlier on Wednesday, as City Hall opened for the day, around a hundred people—parents, teachers and other supporters of the NTA—rallied outside the building holding signs and calling on the mayor to meet the NTA’s demands.

New School Committee Chair Chris Breszki and Superintendent Anna Nolin have been making rounds with local parent groups to explain their side of the contract dispute. On Sunday, Breszki attended a discussion at the Scandinavian Living Center with parents and city councilors to talk about the contract dispute and what can be done to end it.

NTA President Michael Zilles criticized Breszki and Nolin on the NTA blog Tuesday night, saying the effort is a wasted one if Fuller won’t budge.

“Why are Brezski and Nolin trying to convince the public that the NTA is asking too much, rather than trying to convince the public that Mayor Fuller is offering too little—far too little?” Zilles asked.

The School Committee held a special meeting Wednesday night to appoint former committee member Kathleen Shields to the School Committee Negotiations Subcommittee, specifically the Subcommittee on NTA Negotiations.

It is against state law for teachers to go on strike, and doing so carries hefty fines. On Tuesday, the School Committee petitioned to have the Commonwealth Employee Relations Board investigate the Newton Teachers Association, claiming to have evidence of a strike vote planned for Thursday.

On Wednesday night, Fuller said, the Department of Labor Relations issued a notice of strike investigation and is expected to release its findings on Friday.

By then, such an investigation may be moot, if a strike vote is held on Thursday.

“If the NTA strike occurs, school will be canceled, all buildings will be closed, and all school-related events and activities will be postponed.,” Fuller said. “The Newton Public Schools will provide meals for students that can be picked up at Newton North or Newton South High Schools.”