Videos: NTA turns up heat on mayor, School Committee

Lacking three ghosts to send Mayor Ruthanne Fuller this week, the Newton Teachers Association opted for a press conference highlighting their ongoing battle for a contract.

“We would like to settle this contract tonight,” Newton Teachers Association President Michael Zilles said Monday afternoon in Room 111 in ground floor of the Education Center, where another contract negotiation session would soon be underway. “The educators of Newton deserve that. Our students deserve that. And this community deserves that. What none of us deserves is the way Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has led these negotiations.”

Any hopes of a holiday detente may have been roasted like chestnuts on an open fire last week, when 99.6 percent of the NTA’s membership voted “no confidence” in the mayor and School Committee.

“Think about that. You can’t get 99.6 percent of people to agree that ice cream is delicious or that kittens are adorable, but as NTA members we are virtually unanimous that we have had enough,” teacher Mike Schlegelmilch said.

Newton teachers have been working without a contract for more than a hundred days. Negotiations have become increasingly tense over the past several months, temperatures rising to a broil in a summer that ended with state mediation and a strike accusation.

Alli Franke, Newton parent and Watertown teacher, speaks at a press conference at the Newton Education Center on Dec. 18. Photo by Bryan McGonigle

Alli Franke is a Newton parent and works as a teacher elsewhere in the state, and she spoke at Monday’s gathering in support of the NTA.

“On top of doing all that it takes to teach our children, you’ve also needed to advocate for yourselves this year,” Franke said. “And it breaks my heart that your advocacy has not yet gotten results. It’s clear to me that while not all in Newton seem to be showing up for our kids, you, Newton teachers, are showing up for all our kids.”

Newton student Leah Vashevko, joined at the podium by classmates Kevin Yang, Risha Sinha and Roshan Karim, speaks at a press conference on behalf of Newton teachers. Photo by Bryan McGonigle

Students have joined the NTA’s cause as well. A student-run group advocating for Newton teachers formed in the fall. And on Monday, students like Leah Vashevko joined the press conference announcing “no confidence” in their mayor and School Committee.

“We’ve lost sports. We’ve lost clubs. We’ve lost field trips and class trips and community service programs and art classes and music programs and math classes and so much more,” Vashevko said. “So you ask any educator why they want a fair contract now, and I bet you a hundred bucks one of the first reason they’ll give you is the impact on their students.”

Below are videos from Monday’s press conference at the Education Center.

Newton President Michael Zilles
Alli Franke, Newton parent and Watertown educator
Leah Vashevko, Newton student