Middlesex County

Newton parents file emergency motion to bring end to teachers strike as classes canceled for 8th day

NEWTON, Mass. — As the teachers’ strike in Newton enters its second week, one parent is taking matters into their own hands to get her children back in school.

On Monday, an emergency motion to intervene was filed in Middlesex Superior Court by a Newton parent, Lital Asher-Dotan, who claims the strike has had “severely detrimental effects” on her children’s education and overall well-being.

According to court documents, Asher-Dotan has three children in the Newton Public Schools system, one of whom requires IEP support.

“The lack of structured learning and continuity severely hamper their progress, as regular practice is vital for retaining and understanding new concepts,” the motion reads. “Missing regular assistance in reading, writing, and math could jeopardize her chances of college acceptance. The prolonged strike exacerbates these issues, especially for students with special needs.”

Asher-Dotan also cites the significant emotional toll the strike has on her children. Two of them play sports, and a shortened athletic season, she says, has caused detriments to their mental health.

“These missed experiences,” Asher-Dotan says, “are irreplaceable.”

Beyond the toll on her children, Asher-Dotan and her husband both work full-time and say they can’t adequately supervise their children.

“We’ve all come out of the pandemic with kids severely impacted by the loss of academics, the social and emotional toll from being away from school. And again, they’re being thrown out of their daily routines,” Asher-Dotan told Boston 25 News Monday of the impact on her three kids. “Everybody loves the teachers. We want them to have the best outcomes. But at the same time, adults can negotiate while the kids are in school.”

In a statement, the NTA said:

The NTA has spent every moment of this strike trying to reopen schools. But we can no longer accept working conditions that put students at risk or are not meeting their needs. We cannot return to our jobs until a fair contract is settled. The family seeking to intervene in the court action involving the NTA actually has no legal standing in this matter. Private citizens cannot seek injunctive relief in a public sector strike. Our goal all along is to get students back into the classrooms where learning thrives. Without aides and behavior therapists, many students cannot learn to the fullest. But at current wages offered by Newton, qualified individuals cannot afford to take those jobs. Similarly, without easy access to a social worker, a student’s mental health crisis can escalate. That is unacceptable. The educators who cannot take the necessary time off to care for themselves struggle to bring their best into the classroom. We share the concern and anger of parents. But that anger needs to be directed toward Mayor Fuller and the School Committee who are not fully funding our schools.

Schools in Newton will now be closed for 8 days come Tuesday after not reaching an agreement Monday night, making it the longest school strike in recent memory.

Fines for the NTA have reached $425,000, with more fines expected if the two sides can’t agree.

Striking teachers rallied loudly outside city hall on Monday pleading their cause.

“We can’t just break. It’s all or nothing it’s all back, or all of us are out. The schools can’t open unless all of us go back,” said NTA member Katani Eaton Sumner.

Fourth-grade teacher Brenna Green added, “I hear from Newton’s parents every day that we are doing the right thing for our community.”

High school students attended the rally to support their teachers. But they say they are concerned about the length of this strike.

“I’m a little concerned I’m missing the college preps. I’m missing things that will possibly be important,” said Leonor Quessa, a junior at Newton South High School.

Meantime, the Chairman of the state Republican Party tells me it is time for Governor Maura Healey to get involved.

“We’re really concerned that the children and the parents are caught in the middle of this strike,” said Mass GOP Chair Amy Carnevale. “We think the governor and her administration should encourage the teachers to get back in the classroom so the kids can get back to learning.”

Monday night, school committee Chair Chris Brezski said progress was made in negotiations, however, they’re still $20 million apart, a figure the city said would come at the expense of dozens of teacher, police, and fire layoffs.

“While making progress on systems and structures is important we still need to talk about the money,” said Brezski.

Members of the NTA have been getting paid throughout the strike.

As a reminder, teacher strikes are illegal in the state but a bill working its way through the state house could change that.

However, it would need a vote by Wednesday to continue to lawmakers. The State House News is reporting that’s unlikely to happen.

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

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