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Newton parents, students write letters "begging" judge to help end teachers strike

CBS News Live
CBS News Boston Live

NEWTON – Nearly 100 Newton parents and young students wrote letters to a Middlesex Superior Court judge in hopes of convincing him to take action to help end the teachers strike that has now reached two weeks with no deal in sight.

School has now been canceled for 10 days in Newton due to the strike.

The Newton School Committee and Newton Teachers Association were still about $15 million apart in their negotiations as of Thursday. The biggest sticking points are cost of living adjustments, pay raises for aides, and more social workers in schools.

The School Committee will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. to determine how to make up the missed days of school. Wednesday was the last day that could be missed before the district starts cutting into April vacation.

"I miss being in school. I miss seeing my teacher. I hope to be in school soon," one student wrote to the judge overseeing the strike proceedings.

"I am begging you to help put an end to the bickering and back and forth that seems to be continuing regardless of fees of 'mediation.' ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – our judicial system needs to step in and put an end to this and put our children back in school – where they belong as this age: learning," one unidentified parent wrote.

On Thursday, parents picked up packed meals at the high school to bring home to their children. Many said they're frustrated trying to juggle work while their children are home.

"It is costing us money right? It's affecting the job, how we're doing it, because I have to reschedule meetings," one mother said.

"Its awful. It's awful and the children's education is affected … I'm rethinking a lot of things for my family," another woman added, saying "that's on the list" when asked if she would consider moving.

Nicole Murphy is a behavioral analyst in the district who has been on the picket line.

"There's a lot of new challenging behaviors in schools. So more social workers, any behavioral support is really needed now," Murphy said.

According to Newton's mayor, the School Committee has offered a proposal with salary increases. For example, the mayor said, a teacher making $91,251 would increase to $121,299 annually. A paraprofessional making $22.81 per hour would increase to $32.20 per hour.

"We can't allocate what doesn't exist and we can't sign a contract on money you cant count on," Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said.

The union says they will offer a counter proposal Thursday.

"We're also frustrated. We want to be back in school so badly and the only way that's going to happen is the school committee and mayor making progress on their proposals," teacher Talia Gallagher said.

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