Boston-area teachers reach tentative contract agreement after 11-day strike

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) — An 11-day strike by teachers in a Boston suburb ended Friday night after their union and the school district tentatively agreed on a new contract.

“We have great news for the students, families, caregivers, residents and educators of Newton. We expect schools to be open Monday,” the Newton Teachers Association said in a late-night social media post announcing the deal.

The walkout beginning Jan. 19 affected 2,000 Newton Public Schools instructors in about two dozen schools with some 12,000 students. It was the sixth teachers strike in the state since 2022 and the longest, closing schools for 11 days.

The union said it sought living wages for all employees and struck after more than a year of talks with the Newton School Committee, which negotiated on behalf of the district.

Union bargainer Ryan Normandin proclaimed victory at a nighttime news conference before cheering teachers who were bundled against the chilly weather.

“We taught our students not to be afraid that when those in power try to take away your rights, that they should stand up for themselves, that they should not do it alone, but together,” Normandin said. “We taught every other district in this state what will happen if they try to balance their budgets on the backs of our students and educators.”

The agreement still must be approved by the school committee and the union members. Both sides were expected to ratify the deal. The school committee was meeting in executive session Saturday and planned a public vote Wednesday. Michael Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association, said that union members were expected to vote Sunday evening.

The walkout sidelined students and prompted bitterness in the mostly affluent suburb of about 87,000 residents.

Newton parent Trevor Mack called the deal “long overdue” and “avoidable.”

“I don’t think there’s a single party that won in this strike,” Mack, father of an 8-year-old daughter, told The Boston Globe. The union and school committee “lost my trust very early on in their very negative tone and rhetoric.”

The walkout also proved costly for both sides.

In addition to salary losses, a judge fined the teachers association more than $600,000 for violating the state’s ban on strikes by public workers and on Friday threatened to double daily fines to $100,000 if no agreement was reached by Sunday.

The school district, meanwhile, was expected to spend an additional $53 million over four years to cover the cost of the new agreement, which includes a cost-of-living increase of about 13% over that period for teachers, pay hikes for classroom aides and 40 days of fully paid family leave time.

District negotiators said it also had racked up more than $1 million in court and other costs since the walkout began.

“This contract reflects our values including respect for our educators,” the Newton School Committee said in a statement.

“This strike has been painful for NPS families and the entire City of Newton. The Committee looks forward to the return of students to their classrooms,” the statement said. “We will take a breath, then begin the work of ensuring that this never happens again.”

By the eighth day of the strike on Tuesday, tensions had racheted up.

Parent Lital Asher-Dotan filed a lawsuit on Monday in Middlesex District Court. The Newton mother of three, including two high schoolers and a student in eighth grade, asked the court to compel the teachers union to end the walkout.

In the lawsuit, Asher-Dotan said one of her children is facing setbacks during a critical high school year that could jeopardize her chance of college acceptance. She said her children also have missed part of the hockey season and opportunities with the ski team club.

“The prolonged strike exacerbates these issues, especially for students with special needs,” the lawsuit said.

Other parents started an online petition urging the union and city “to continue your negotiations while enabling students and teachers to get back to the classroom.”

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