Newton teachers vote ‘no confidence’ in mayor, School Committee

The Newton Teachers Association on Wednesday night cast a vote of “no confidence” in Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and the Newton School Committee, in the latest development in an increasingly heated contract negotiation.

The vote was 1,635 in favor and one against, with six abstentions. That amounts to 99.6 percent of NTA members voting “yes” for no confidence, NTA President Michael Zilles said Thursday.

The NTA plans to formally announce the vote on Monday afternoon as they address the contract crisis.

“Newton educators have been working for more than 100 days under an expired contract,” NTA President Michael Zilles said in a statement Thursday. “This is indicative of the lack of respect Mayor Fuller and the School Committee have for educators. It’s even more troubling that Fuller and the School Committee fail to see how addressing the issues we are raising in bargaining has such a significant impact on our ability to meet the needs of all students.”

Zilles emphasized that the “no confidence” vote had nothing to do with the new superintendent, Anna Nolin.

“Our schools are in crisis and seriously in need of staff and resources,” Zilles continued. “Yet Fuller refuses to trust the judgment and expertise of those working directly in the classroom. Instead, she and the school committee follow the advice of a lawyer hired to settle cheap contracts, who earns more money the longer negotiations drag on. Let’s invest in the Newton Public Schools and not in lawyer fees.”

The NTA and School Committee have been in negotiations for months, and over the summer the School Committee requested state mediation. When teachers skipped a traditionally optional opening day convocation ceremony in August, the School Committee filed a complaint with the state accusing the NTA of taking a strike action. The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board ruled in the School Committee’s favor.

It is illegal in Massachusetts for teachers to go on strike, but sometimes that happens. Most recently, teachers in Andover went on strike for several days over their contract dispute.

Zilles said there is no plan as of now for Newton teachers to strike.

“We’re still hoping to settle something with the School Committee,” he said.