Newton Teachers Strike Update: Overnight Talks Crash With No Deal

NEWTON, MA — A marathon overnight bargaining session ended with no new contract for Newton teachers as the state’s longest public school teachers in three decades strike continued into an 11th day on Friday.

After Newton School Committee Chair Chris Brezski said earlier Thursday that the sides had an agreement on many major aspects of a potential new deal and that at that point “it’s all about money” in the form of cost-of-living wage increases, the Newton Teachers Association shot back Friday morning that the School Committee was not meeting its demands to have social workers in every school and that the city backtracked on other issues during the session that broke off at 6 a.m.

(More on Patch: ‘The Schools Should Be Open’: Newton Teachers Strike Hits 11th Day)

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“School Committee Chair Chris Brezski lost all integrity yesterday,” an NTA spokesperson charged in a Friday morning statement. “After Brezski publicly declared that money remained the only issue separating the NTA and School Committee, the union significantly adjusted its
financial proposal. By 4 a.m., the financial proposals between the two parties were identical.

“But the School Committee then attempted to weaken the agreements on social workers and alter other agreements affecting the working conditions of educators and the learning conditions of students.”

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Among the stumbling blocks, according to the NTA, was a late attempt to “extract more than $1 million from educators.”

“The Committee showed no interest in healing rifts or truly ending this strike — a strike that
Click Here: Cheap AFL Guernseyswould not have occurred had the School Committee settled this contract at any point during the 16 months of negotiations that preceded the strike vote,” the NTA said. “The NTA is prepared to settle a fair agreement and reasonable return-to-work agreement that fosters the rebuilding of relationships across the school community.”

The School Committee issued a statement late Friday morning saying the sides were “extremely close to settling a contract” and that it is “optimistic about the progress we’ve made toward a return to school on Monday.”

The School Committee said the $1 million the NTA referenced stemmed from “compensatory services and court fees” because of the strike.

“It is our responsibility to determine how those costs will be paid,” the School Committee said.

The state was expected to get more involved in the impasse — which has included teachers working without a contract for five months before voting to strike on Jan. 18 — on Friday with the possibility of binding arbitration should the sides not reach an agreement by Friday.

Teachers were back on the picket lines Friday morning with leadership vowing not to return to the
classrooms without what they consider to be a fair contract despite racking up more than $500,000 in fines with possible additional court penalties coming Friday for a strike that is illegal under Massachusetts state law.

All school buildings remain closed — and all school sports, arts and drama programs, after-school care and community education programs are canceled — amid the strike.

All missed school days will have to be made up this academic year before June 30.

The School Committee on Thursday unveiled a plan that would have students make up at least four of those days during the upcoming February vacation with additional days potentially made up during April vacation after the Patriots Day holiday — which includes the Boston Marathon route going through the heart of the city.

After getting emotional during a Wednesday night news conference, Brezski went on the offensive on Thursday, saying that while the cause of the strike was a “collective failure” now “the strike itself is not a collective failure. It is a unilateral decision and a willful action to close our schools while negotiations progress.”

Brezski said the NTA should send the School Committee’s latest offer to its membership for a vote and return to “the schools that we deserve, the schools that we fought for, schools that are within our reach.

“All they have to do is say: ‘Yes.'”

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