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Zilles to lead NTA after close election

Posted By Alex Gershanov On May 21, 2010 @ 6:04 am In News | Comments Disabled

After serving eight years as the Newton Teachers’ Association (NTA) president, Cheryl Turgel will step down on July 1 and hand the presidency over to Newton North teacher Mike Zilles.

Zilles won the election against Turgel in a 51 to 49 percent split on May 6.

Many in the union, particularly Turgel, did not expect Zilles to run for NTA president.

“I was surprised because he had no previous experience with the NTA, Turgel said.

Zilles explained that he hoped to lead the organization to new heights.

“I decided to run because there was a lot more we could do as a union and I wanted to contribute to that, he said.

Despite his limited history with the union, Zilles intends to bring a certain degree of change to the NTA. He begins his term after a year of much negativity towards the union and will attempt to revive what he feels may be the union’s slightly tarnished reputation.

“I want people to see what we teachers do is for the benefit of students, Zilles said. “There has been a lot of bad press towards the union.

Zilles will likely have a difficult job ahead of him but he remains confident about the opportunity to bring about change.

Among other plans he has, Zilles hopes to create a better organizational structure within the union and improve the involvement of all union members.

One of his main goals is to send a positive message to the community, mainly that “teachers are advocating not simply in their own interests, but in the students’ interests.

History teacher Marcia Okun agrees that it was a difficult year for teachers, and that Turgel is not to blame.
“It’s not all her fault; there has been a lot of teacher-bashing from the outside, she said.

She feels, however, that the NTA has not always done a good job or presenting itself to the public in an “informative and enlightening manner.

Both opponents campaigned prior to the election, sending out informational fliers and speaking at Newton schools. Zilles, relatively unknown before his campaign, explained it was important for him to first build a wide base of supporters. He visited every school and “kept people informed about what [he] was doing.

Ultimately, two elections were held, the second following shortly after the first. The results of the first election were very close and speculation existed that voting rules may not have been followed as strictly as would be desired in some schools.

The NTA decided that to avoid controversy and a split opinion in the NTA, a second election would be in everyone’s best interests. The second election provided more accurate results and designated Zilles the winner.

Turgel is hopeful that Zilles will be an effective leader but worries that the NTA will “go through a rough patch with no experience.

Zilles plans to take the momentum he has built during the campaign and move forward from there.

“[Turgel] did a good job, and we will take the involvement of people in the election and build on that, he said.
Okun is hopeful of Zilles’ performance as president but not necessarily certain.

“Change can mean anything, she said. “There are bigger issues that he is going to have to react to–he’ll have no choice.

In her eight years as NTA president, Turgel accomplished much for the union. She advocated for high teacher salaries and improved benefits and maintained a healthy relationship between the School Committee and the NTA.

Her most recent success was in ratifying a teacher contract between the NTA and the School Committee. The negotiations process was difficult due to budget constraints on the city, but Turgel pulled through with an acceptable contract to both parties.

Teachers and the NTA, despite some uncertainty, are waiting to see how Zilles will affect the NTA agenda and represent the union.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/05/21/zilles-to-lead-nta-after-close-election/

URLs in this post:

[1] Mayor and school committee reacts to NTA protest efforts: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/mayor-and-school-committee-reacts-to-nta-protest-efforts/

[2] Teachers “gift” city with $37 million: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/teachers-gift-city-with-37-million/

[3] NTA fights layoffs: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/03/25/nta-fights-layoffs/

[4] One year teacher contract ratified: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/one-year-teacher-contract-ratified/

[5] Faculty reflects on a historic election: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/faculty-reflects-on-a-historic-election/

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