Teachers take to School Committee meeting to confront committee and mayor

Newton teachers confronted the School Committee and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller at Monday night’s School Committee meeting.

“Mayor Fuller has said that, in her role as mayor, the education of Newton’s children is her top priority,” Newton South High School math teacher Ryan Normandin said as the meeting’s public comment portion started. “My top priority is my wife, and if I treated her the way that this mayor has treated the schools, she would have left me by now.”

Over the summer, teacher contract negotiations—already tense for months—hit a wall over pay increases and pay increase step schedules. The School Committee requested state mediation, and the teachers went into “work to rule” mode.

“Two months ago, I returned to an un-air-conditioned South, without a contract yet again, whereeach of my junior honors math classes had 32 students, and calculus at the time had 34 and 36,” Normandin continued. “Students sat on radiators blowing out room-temperature air because there weren’t enough desks. And as always, it falls on us teachers to explain to our young people why the elected officials in this city cut their electives, cut their teachers and blow up their class sizes.”

NTA President Mike Zilles has blamed the mayor for not providing more money for the schools in her budget requests and asked members on the NTA blog to go to Monday’s meeting and speak out to Fuller.

Deborah Hahn, Newton North High School teacher, listed many of her own accomplishments in the district and said they “paled” compared with those of her colleagues.

“Yes, teaching in Newton can be humbling, but your contract offer is making us feel humiliated,” Hahn said.

Monday’s confrontation wasn’t the first. In September, the NTA held a rally in the halls of the Education Center during the School Committee’s first meeting of the academic year while teachers spoke during public comment.

In the weeks since, however, things have soured even more, as the state has ruled the NTA engaged in strike activity when organizing a boycott of a convocation ceremony in August and the City Council recently rejected Fuller’s plan for surplus funds—with several councilors saying they want more money to go to the schools.

You can watch the entire meeting on the School Committee’s YouTube channel.