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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.

lucky March 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Maria - sorry I don't understand your question. BOE members are volunteers, there is no compensation. The public should understand that BOE members are sometimes prohibited from giving the public answers to their questions due to personnel matters, negotation matters, legal matters, etc. The teachers are not prohibited and are more than willing to manipulate the parents and kids. I've seen it myself as a BOE member (not in Mahwah). Don't think that teachers are not appreciated - none of us can succeed without them. In this economy though, with their salary step increases and their benefits it's time for them to appreciate working in a district like Mahwah. They should not use children as a means to get what they want regardless. I'm all for people standing up for themselves, but not at the expense of a child.
MEA MEMBER- MAHWAH PARENT March 15, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Thank you "MahwahMommy"...you get it
MahwahMommy210 March 15, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Lucky- you do realize their benefits are mandated by the state so they can't be negotiated? As for salary, they are asking for a basic cost of living adjustment, which I believe everyone in anyone in ang profession would want, and according to the meeting havent received in a fre years. As is due to state requirements they are making less than ever before, but being asked to do more. I really would urge you to attend the board meeting and read the facts on state benefit requirements. At the meeting the board told us the issues with negotiations. The board would like to mandate two extra meetings a month. According to the teachers they use this time to grade papers, make tests, work collaboratively with one another.. Time that benefits the students. I don't see why the board cares about this frankly? It seems as a matter of control, let the experts do their job. I must admit I am not a long time member of the Mahwah community, but I'm very disheartened by the lack of teacher support. Unfortunately children, including my own, will have to suffer slightly otherwise people wouldn't realize all that they do. You never miss the water until the well runs dry.
lucky March 15, 2012 at 05:43 PM
@MahwayMommy - of course I realize some benefits are mandated and some are negotiated and thankfully our governor is now forcing the teachers to contribute to their costs. Your teachers are not just getting a cost of living adjustment. Have a look at the salary GUIDES. Teachers get an increase each year just for being a teacher another year. This is ON TOP of salary increases or as you say, cost of living increases. I am well aware of state requirements, as I said I have been a BOE member for many years. Teachers can average anywhere between 6-20% salary increases when you add in their GUIDE Step increase and their cost of living increase. I suggest you check the facts - request a Salary Guide from your BOE office, it's public information, all you have to do is ask for it. As to the 2 extra meeting a month, I do not have a clue why the BOE wants to use that time. I would however, imagine that it's not just because they feel like being difficult.
MahwahMommy210 March 15, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Well my mother is a teacher, sister is a teacher, and my neighbor is a Mahwah teacher so trust me I have seen salary guides and never once have I seen such an increase as you suggest. Also, Im sure you are aware as I am that teachers in Mahwah have always contributed to their pension and having been contributing to their health are. No other benefits of that nature can be negotiated. I personally would like the governor to address the toll collectors making over a hundred grand, or the numerous administrators in towns making way more than teachers. I have read the patch and never chosen to comment, and did this time because I attended this meeting. I will be returning, as should all people who want to have an opinion and vocalize it.
Maria Morales March 15, 2012 at 07:39 PM
lucky, I have been trying to respond but computer freezes. I agree with you. I am new to BOE since this is my first child in public school. My question again, are there any perks that they receive? I support effective, responsible teachers 100%, conversely, we also need to see the writing on the wall. I am an advocate for my child since MEA is an advocate for the teachers.
Hug_a_Book March 15, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I was at the board meeting last night and I think what most forum commenters are failing to understand is that the teachers did not back out of the trip; they NEVER signed up nor committed to being chaperones. The school started collecting money and permission slips before making sure they'd be enough teacher chaperones. Since the MEA is working to their contract, and overnight trips are not in their contracts, they are not going. Although there is a stipend, going on an overnight trip is above and beyond what they are contractually obligated to do. How did the BOE not expect that? It is quite astounding to learn that the BOE doesn't have a contingency plan in place that spells out where chaperones would be found in case there aren’t enough teacher chaperones. I believe that to qualify as a chaperone, you need to be fingerprinted and have had bullying training. Teachers are not the only people who meet these requirements: coaches, police officers, parents who are teachers in other districts, supervisors, administrators, superintendents, and even the BOE members. If Dr. Lake is so adamant about not canceling the trip, perhaps she should start seeking out chaperones from the aforementioned professionals.
Bob Rama March 15, 2012 at 08:22 PM
"The public should understand that BOE members are sometimes prohibited from giving the public answers to their questions due to personnel matters, negotation matters, legal matters, etc" Well, lucky, I guess you have not been to a Mahwah BOE meeting in the last few weeks because the BOE spelled out the entire negotiation in a powerpoint including the timeline of the negotiation, the sticking points and their offer to the teachers.
Maria Morales March 15, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I am pretty sure things will be resolved by then. If not, the BOE may want to up the tactics and might offer to volunteer.. I could just imagine the uproar. Please, resolve the issues on May meeting and we could all worried about how to bring the house back to order. There is a lot to worry about...3 schools that are low proficient, class sizes, new hires, curriculum changes, rising taxes to name just a few.
Bob Rama March 15, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I agree, Maria. This is a time where more than ever we need our board, administrators and teachers all on the same page to install the new core standards and prepare for the new national tests. I can't believe the two sides can't find a compromise. It doesn't seem so crazy to me to find middle ground. I posted this possible compromise once already, but I think it is worth mentioning again: Why can't both sides compromise and give only ONE meeting back to the administrators? Is this so hard for both sides to agree on? BOE wants 2 meetings back, teachers want 0 meeting back so meet in the middle. THAT is compromise. As far as the half-day on back to school night, which was mentioned in the last negotiations article, why not just pick a day later in the year where everyone has the same half-day so it won't be disruptive for parents? Again, compromise. The board should bump their contract raise offer up by a couple of tenths of a percent to help offset the increase in health care payments by the teachers. One more time: Compromise. Let's get this negotiation over already!
Hug_a_Book March 15, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Hi Bob, I don't know about the other stuff, but as far as Back to School Night goes, all of the schools can't have that single session on the same day because parents with children in multiple schools won't be able to attend each child's BTSN. :)
Bob Rama March 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Oh, I totally get that. What I am saying is pick a day later in the year when all school's would have it on the same day. Or the teachers could choose to offer to trade that half-day in for the BOE to budge on another issue. That is usually how a negotiation would go. But according to the MEA, the BOE says their offer in terms of time is take-it-or-leave it (non-negotiable). Was anything asked of the board about that last night?
Maria Morales March 15, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I am not an expert on these matters, but have heard from professional negotiators that basically what stops compromise from being reached by adversaries is not this or that but a lack of respect, wether real or perceived, by either side. However, in May, you will have a mediator that will bring some form of resolution. Lets wait and see.
Gal March 15, 2012 at 11:47 PM
“Modern cynics and skeptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.” John F. Kennedy
PB March 16, 2012 at 12:05 PM
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "
CaraGia March 16, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Everything today is a job and the unionization of things ensures that it stays that way. Forget doing something because of goodwill or the feelings of self-satisfaction one gets. Those days are long gone. We now live int he era of "keep up with the Jones'" and materialism. Where have you been?
CaraGia March 16, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I would be more than happy to volunteer to go on the trip with my children. no questions asked. But that isn't an option for parents. Personally, I despise how the schools have kicked the parents out of the classroom and then complain there isn't enough parental support. When my children first started school in Mahwah, parents were welcomed and encouraged in the classroom, for reading, helping, parties, etc. No more as of a few years ago and nothing other than a REALLY lame excuse!
CaraGia March 16, 2012 at 06:01 PM
How about the parents get together and organize the trip for the kids with the same itinerary that would have otherwise been used. This negates both the teachers and the BOE being involved either way. Besides, what child couldn't benefit from a couple of days with Mom or Dad. There are enough parents in this town to work together that this is a reasonable alternative. Start thinking outside the box and find a solution for the children.
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer March 17, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I think this situation has carried on for too long. Teachers are a big part of the children's lives. I believe the teachers do deserve pay increases annually just as I expect annual pay increases. What the teachers need to realize along with all of the municipal workers throughout all of New Jersey is that all of the other great benefits they receive were created decades ago when the world was a completely different place. The corporate world has realized this and it's time that government and school employees realize this, too. In my industry, every company offered a pension which the company funded until about 10 years ago and those pensions were replaced by 401k' in which the employee contributes an d the employer offers some type of match. Also, those of us in corporate continue to pay increasing healthcare costs which includes monthly contributions, higher copays each year, and higher deductibles. The list goes on for how private sector employees have to fund more and more of their benefits.
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer March 17, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I would like to say that in my younger years I was in the food workers union and while in that union, the union contract had an aspect that I feel the government needs to use because I don't believe the current teachers should lose the benefits they have been promised. While in the union, I was working under the 'C' contract and of course there were an 'a' and a 'b' contract. The 'a' contract people were entitled to double time on Sundays and Holidays and were guaranteed a certain raise each year. The 'b' contract people were only entitled to time and a half on Sundays and Holidays and received the same increase as the 'a' contract. The 'c' contract still had time and a half but the increases were less the 'b' contract. ,This might be the way to make everyone happy and allows you to manage the expectations of future teachers that are currently in college. As a final note, the teachers have been receiving bad advice from their union which has cost them as they continue to lose benefits due to the state passing legislation while the teachers could have been grandfathered in. Plus, using the children as pawns I feel is uncalled for. If the school will allow, I will be a chaperone and I don't even have a kid in the middle school. The children should not suffer due to bad advice from some union as they continue to get paid while this situation continues
member at large March 17, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Why do they need to get an increase, at my job I am lucky to get one every two or three years no guarantees that is if my job has improved. 1) If the district ranked higher in the state “ok” for an increases but Mahwah is dropping like a rock in the standing over the past couple of years that deserves a change in BOE, administration and Teachers. 2) No raise until the district ranking increases and change in staffing and management just like the rest of America they are starting to make these changes in NYC. 3) This whole conversation is about $$$ not about the quality of the education of the children, no wonder the education of the children is suffering. Unhappy parent and member of the community who has to pay for these over price individuals
Regenbogen March 17, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Member at large ...you are so right!
Bob Rama March 17, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Except Mahwah has been on the rise in recent history. Where do you get your info from? This took me 2 seconds to google: http://www.schooldigger.com/go/NJ/schools/0933000586/school.aspx
Bob Rama March 17, 2012 at 02:09 AM
2003 Math HSPA: 83.4% 2011 Math HSPA: 90.9% 2003 LA HSPA: 89.7% 2011 LA HSPA: 94.8% Am I missing something here? That looks like improvement to me.
CaraGia March 17, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Bob Rama, THe Patch just had an article on the drop on three schools in Mahwah. Honestly, I can't say I'm surprised. I believe it was in LA's.
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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