Kinnelon Teachers Assemble as They Await Contract
A large number of teachers gathered outside the board of education meeting as a sign of solidarity in their quest for a new contract.
There were at least 30 members of the Kinnelon Education Association congregated inside the entrance to Kinnelon High School prior to Thursday evening's Kinnelon Public Schools Board of Education meeting. The group is upset that they have been working without a contract since June 30, 2011, and was "just letting it be known that we're proud to be part of the Kinnelon Education Association," according to Michelle Cromwell, a special education teacher at Pearl R. Miller School.
Each member was outfitted in a matching lime green t-shirt that read "Kinnelon Education Association" on the front and "Your Partners in Education" on the back.
KEA members have been attending meetings for the last two years, but have been coming in larger groups for the last couple of meetings, Cromwell said, and have had a "good number" at both.
"I think the board respects their constitutional rights to assemble," Superintendent James Opiekun said. "We're at that juncture where emotions are running high, and I think the board just understands that the show of solidarity is really something that, as an association, they must do. I don't think it exerts pressure and I don't think on the board's part it causes any bad feelings."
Although there was nothing on the board's agenda regarding a new teachers' contract, the group felt it necessary to assemble because "we're just very proud to be here and we love working with the students here and we're proud of what we do everyday," Cromwell said.
Opiekun said after the meeting that the next discussion in negotiations for the teachers' contract will be at a fact-finding session on June 13.
The teachers would like a new contract sooner rather than later, but Cromwell said even if it never happens "students are our first priority. Every day we will give 120 percent in that classroom no matter if we have a contract or not."
Opiekun also said after the meeting that the board will issue non-tenured contracts to non-tenured staff on June 7.
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone each day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast, sign-up here.