Newton student group joins teacher contract fight

Newton’s teachers are in a heated contract negotiation. The School Committee is asking for the state to step in. The new superintendent is making demands while trying to quell hostilities.

And now, students are joining the fight.

Students For Teachers is a new group formed by Newton students to help teachers in this protracted contract battle.

“We believe that the Newton School Committee and Mayor Fuller are not fulfilling their responsibility to the students and families of Newton, but we invite you to reach your own conclusion,” a statement on the group’s website reads.

“Our goal is to inform students and families about how their elected officials are serving their interests,” the statement continues. “We are an entirely independent student group, not associated with the Newton Public Schools, the Newton Teachers Association, or any NPA teachers. Our opinions are our own.”

It’s unclear who the “we” and “our” refer to, however, because the group’s website has no names on it. The website consists of a home page with that statement on it, an email link, and a link to a recently created Instagram account with 24 followers and no posts yet.

Allison Lobron, a Newton parent who started the Parent Educator Collaborative, said that while she’s not officially involved with Students For Teachers, she has been talking with the group’s organizers since meeting them at this year’s Back to School Night.

“This is a generation of activists. They see climate change, they see all of these problems that are falling on their shoulders,” Lobron said. “They see how broken the world is, and there are a lot of adults in their lives who are encouraging them.”

Any mystery of who the students are is likely to end this week, when members of Students For Teachers plan to speak at the School Committee meeting Wednesday night.

After that, what do the kids have planned?

“In my correspondence with the young man I talked to,” Lobron said happily, “all he said was, ‘We have big things in store.'”

Meanwhile, the Newton Teachers Association and School Committee are waiting on a decision from the state about whether teachers boycotting a traditionally optional back-to-school convocation counts as a strike action. It’s been two weeks since the strike hearing, but there’s still no word on a ruling.

A ruling against the NTA could set a game-changing precedent in Massachusetts teacher union negotiations, as it could allow school boards to expand on what they consider “strike activities,” and in Massachusetts teacher strikes are illegal.