Teachers and city fail to reach agreement amid mounting fines in Newton

On the seventh day of the strike, Newton teachers and supporters rallied along city streets while negotiating a new contract deal, but no deal was reached, which means all Newton Public Schools will be closed heading into the weekend.

On top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars the teachers union has already been fined, a judge ordered an additional $50,000 fine by 8 p.m. Sunday if a deal is not reached.

Tensions are at a boiling point between the two sides.

“Today the school committee showed us again they have no interest in actually negotiating....they have no interest in getting our students back into school....the school committee is not here to bargain,” said a member of the Newton Teachers Association (NTA).

The Newton School Committee and the NTA are continuing negotiations for a four-year contract at the city’s education center. The union is asking for better pay, working conditions, and benefits in bars with similar, neighboring districts.

“The biggest sticking point is that the Newton school committee refuses to bargain with us, they’re playing a game of ‘wait it out’....everything that we have put on the table would make worthwhile contributions to bettering Newton Public Schools,” said NTA President Mike Zilles. “They don’t know who they picked a fight with.”

Since the NTA did not call off the strike by 8 p.m., they are expected to pay $375,000 in fines to the state.

“I have to have hope that we can make progress and I also know our kids belong in school. I have complete confidence that the Newton school committee’s negotiating team is bargaining in good faith. I deeply value our teachers....and I’m committed, I’m all in on resolving this but we gotta do it urgently,” said Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

A group of protesters went to Mayor Fuller’s office on Thursday demanding change but were escorted out.

“What they did today was not role modeling what I think our adults should be doing here in Newton,” said Mayor Fuller. “They pushed past the office staff, they crowded down the hall in front of my office, and they started pounding on the door, I was in a meeting with our commissioner of parks rec and culture, and that’s not a way to send me a message or have an exchange of ideas.”

Thousands of students and parents are still waiting to return to normalcy as parental leave is becoming an issue with teachers.

“It’s inhumane to everyone, but especially first-year teachers,” said a teacher at Newton North HS on parental leave policy.

Thursday marked the fifth day school was closed amidst the strike and now the students will be out for a sixth day on Friday.

“The day did not end on a positive note,” said School Committee chair Chris Brezki. “This is 6 days in a row that my kids haven’t been in school, that every other kid in Newton hasn’t been in school, and we understand how hard this is for families.”

For some, the strike has meant finding childcare for more than a week, with the uncertainty of if they’ll need it the following day.

The school system has also offered grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for children in need.

One mom said while their family is lucky her daughters haven’t been home alone, this has been hard on her kids.

“It’s been really challenging to see my children’s lives disrupted and see them face the uncertainty of when they’ll return to school again,” said Dena Snyder.

NTA will rally outside of Newton City Hall on Friday at 10 a.m.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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