Emotions run high as Newton teachers’ strike nears two weeks

Schools were closed again for Thursday, as the Newton teachers’ strike approaches two weeks in length.

“The two parties remain approximately $15 million apart in our proposals, of which approximately $12 million is related to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA),” a Wednesday night email to parents from the School Committee reads.

The School Committee has offered a new proposal that would increase employee salaries by 12% over four years.

But items are packaged together, and the Newton Teachers Association has a variety of demands.

City Councilor Leonard Gentile recently penned an open letter suggesting the mayor use free cash and overlay surplus money to fill the gap in negotiations so the schools can reopen. Gentile also suggested the NTA take a lower COLA in exchange for higher pay for Unit C staff (paraprofessionals).

A visibly browbeaten School Committee Chair Chris Brezski broke down in tears during a press conference Wednesday night.

“My kids aren’t going to school again,” Brezski said. “This has gone too far, We need our kids back in school. And only the union can unilaterally make that decision.”

Fuller said she won’t agree to any funding now that may result in citywide staff and program cuts.

“I have a question for the union tonight: Where is your sense of urgency?” Fuller asked, noting that the School Committee has made an offer with more funding for salaries and it took a whole day to get an updated proposal from the NTA while parents miss work or pay for childcare day after day.

“Meanwhile, the union found time for boisterous rallies, celebratory music, and listening to speeches today at the Newton Ed Center, where bargaining was supposed to be happening, speeches from the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the president of the National Education, headquartered in Washington, D.C.”

Ryan Normandin of the NTA called on the School Committee Wednesday night to redirect its attention toward Mayor Fuller to push her to allocate more funds for the schools.

“In a meeting this evening, the School Committee reiterated their position that they do not have enough money to settle this contract. We agree,” Normandin said. “We have been clear from the very beginning of this process that the allocation that Mayor Fuller has provided to Chris Brezski and his School Committee was insufficient to settle this contract.”

Outside the Education Center, teachers and NTA supporters held a rally and sang in unity as negotiators headed for another long night (this time, without the mayor at the table).