On Thursday, the Newton School Committee unanimously voted to approve a new contract for the teachers union, formally ending a conflict that led to an 11-day strike.
Opponents of the strike have argued that the action took learning time away from students who are already academically behind as a result of the pandemic. Mike Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association, addressed such criticisms on Boston Public Radio Thursday.
“[Students] will be going to school for 180 days, so they won't lose any days,” he said. “And there is a system put in place by our special ed programing directors to monitor the progress of all the students over the course of the year and design interventions, if they're needed.”
Zilles said that the new contract was beneficial for both students and teachers. He pointed out that the new contract includes stipulations regarding pay for educators and parental leave, as well as promises more mental health professionals in schools.
“I can tell you stories of teachers who have come to me in tears because they have children that they know are struggling with mental health issues, and they can't provide what they need,” he said.
The Newton action also prompted concerns about the increasing frequency of teacher strikes. School Committee President Chris Brezski on Boston Public Radio last week said he thinks the common thread is the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Zilles denied that on Thursday.
“MTA supported us, but this was our strike. This was our decision, and it was our local,” Zilles stated.
He also criticized any possible comparison of the Newton Strike to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The other thing that I find completely offensive is when people say, ‘You can't cherry pick which law you're going to disobey,’ to compare what we did going on strike to represent our members, and we believe our students and our community, versus a president who engaged in insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States. It's a ridiculous and offensive comparison.”
Boston Public Radio also extended an invitation to the Newton School Committee and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to speak on the show, but did not receive a response.