Teacher Contract Dispute May Threaten Middle School’s Overnight Trip

MEA says members are questioning whether or not they will chaperone the trip if a contract settlement is not reached

This year’s 8th grade overnight field trip to Gettysburg may be in jeopardy, thanks to . Representatives of the Mahwah Education Association Teachers’ Union, who have been working under an expired contract since June 2010, said at Wednesday night’s board of education meeting that chaperoning the June trip may not happen if a settlement is not reached beforehand.

“Deciding to chaperone a field trip has always been completely voluntary, and a choice each teacher makes,” Regina Guth, teacher and MEA Vice President said. “But, it becomes a talking point when we have no contract.” Guth said if a settlement is not reached, it will still be up to individual teachers whether or not to chaperon. However, the MEA as a whole is discussing the possibility of advising members not to, in the event that the union and board of ed cannot reach an agreement by June.

According to Assistant Superintendent Janet Donohue, the trip, an overnight excursion in early June, is traditionally chaperoned by the eighth grade teachers. Chaperoning is on a voluntary basis, but teachers are paid to go on the trip.

Members of the district’s administration seemed surprised Wednesday when Guth asked if they were planning on cancelling the trip. “There has been no talk at the administrative level about canceling the trip,” interim Superintendent Dr. Karen Lake said. “It is my feeling that doing that would be hurting kids.”

Board Vice President and chief contract negotiator Chuck Saldarini added that the board wasn’t “operating under the assumption that we would need to look at this through the lens of the contract negotiations. But, if chaperoning may be an issue, we will need to look at that and decide how to move forward."

Parents at the meeting told MEA members it sounded like they were threatening not to chaperone if there is no contract settlement. “That is exactly what it sounds like to me, as a parent, and that is not fair to the kids,” one resident in a crowd of about 20 said. Guth insisted that she was not threatening a mass action by MEA members. “It is not that black and white,” she told Patch.

According to Ridge teachers, the conversation about chaperoning was initiated by the school’s administration beginning to plan the details of the annual trip. “The topic came up this week because we got an email asking about chaperoning and other aspects of the trip,” Guth said.

The MEA and board of education have been at odds over a contract dispute since February 2010, when the MEA declared an impasse in negotiations. Though the two sides sat down for face-to-face meetings in December and January, a disagreement over scheduling teacher meetings after school caused the MEA to announce earlier this week that it would wait until a state-mediated meeting May 2 to negotiate the contract further.

Both sides have expressed frustration at the length of time the contract dispute has been ongoing. Saldarini has said at past meetings that the impasse process, which involves state representatives in the negotiation process, elongates it. The May 2 meeting was scheduled because it was the earliest date state reps could attend, he said.

Maria Morales March 17, 2012 at 04:13 AM
member at large I attended last BOE meeting and that is how it came across to me. However, I do not agree that all teachers are overpaid, rather some are underpaid. I also do believe that teachers should get paid on how effective they are just like in the public sector. Good teachers should get more regards (bonus and a big one) and mediocre teachers shall get more training paid by them. But how can you accurately test the effectiveness of a teacher? By test performance, like in NYC? How accurate this that? Another dilemma for BOE to resolve? On a personal note, I have never heard a person say they want to make lots of money and chosen to be a teacher. What I have heard time and time again is that you have all these extra perks like time off in summer, get out of work early. I am pretty sure others have heard those same comments.
PB March 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM
We all want the best for our children and our community. We are passionate about where we live and our neighbors and friends. Teachers guide our children through early years in life. In these times, having the best influence is most important. A great teacher will make an impact that all of us realize when we get older. The board of education are a great group of people, however they should not expect us to hold them in high exteem because they volunteer to guide the schools. When a person volunteers, they should take on the job as if is a paid position, and give it their all. It is not apparent that our BOE approaches their positions as a job, rather they create a political environment. They are looked at to resolve issues, not create issues. I am sure when the next election comes around all of this will be discussed and we may see a change of guard. In addition, we may also see a change in the school systems as all of us should hold teachers, administrators and allied personell accountable for their goals and targets.
PB March 17, 2012 at 01:00 PM
One more thought. The township of Mahwah shoud require a 3-5 year strategic plan for the schools. The issue we have now should have been forecasted and planned for. Yes, you can say that it is difficult to predict the future. However, if you want to take a trip, do you plan? The township of Mahwah is us.
Bob Rama March 17, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Actually, Cara, that's not what the article said. It didn't say the school dropped, it said it didn't meet it's AYP growth goal in just LA. That doesn't even mean scores went down necessarily, it just means they didn't GROW AS MUCH as they were expecting them to. That is a lot different than "dropping like a rock in the standing". I think our schools can still improve, especially the ones that didn't meet their growth goal, but let's not lose perspective. We have a great school system here in Mahwah. Our HS, where our kids' education culminates, is doing GREAT in terms of it's AYP. In recent years, our HS teachers have won honors such as NJ teacher of the year and AP teacher of the year in NJ. I am shocked at the amount of misinformation on here, the misinterpretation of the AYP ratings and the trashing of our school district. Mahwah is still WAY above state averages. I guess you missed this article: http://mahwah.patch.com/articles/mahwah-students-perform-better-than-state-average-on-nj-exams Again, can there be improvement? Of course! No one should ever be satisfied (teachers, administrators and parents). Staying hungry is what makes a good school district, and that it is how schools will continue to improve into the future.
The Stig April 28, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Talk about extortion - Give us a contract we like or will punish the kids. It's the NJEA Mantra.


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