According to this article from the TAB’s Julie Cohen, 80 percent of teachers at Newton South signed a petition asking Mayor Fuller not to attend graduation on June 6 because of “failing contract negotiations.” The teachers’ contract — which was extended last year for one year — expires at the end of August. Fuller told the TAB that she will attend graduation.

In April, Newton Teachers Association president Mike Zilles told the TAB,

““We’re always met with, ‘We just don’t have enough money.’ It’s really demoralizing for the members that I represent. “We just don’t feel like we’re respected.” 

As someone who has been following collective bargaining and the teachers’ contract for close to 20 years, I’m confused. I thought the School Committee negotiates with the union, not the mayor. Yes, the mayor decides how much to allocate but the School Committee should be pushing for more money if it’s needed. Did the teachers ask the School Committee chair not to attend graduation also? And, if the mayor is trying to shortchange the school system, why doesn’t the School Committee speak up? Or is this just another publicity stunt from the NTA?

Like Zilles said, it’s not unusual for the NTA to want more money than the city says it can afford. That’s what collective bargaining is all about. I can remember some pretty prolonged contract disputes but I don’t think I’ve ever seen teachers ask the mayor not to attend graduation.

So, what’s different about this year that is inciting teachers to publicly disrespect the mayor?