Kinnelon Teachers Take 'High Road,' Union Rep Says
NJEA representative said no organized effort is in place for teachers to only offer extra help on Thursdays.
Kinnelon teachers grades 6 through 12 who are only offering extra help after school on Thursdays are not part of an organized effort, according to New Jersey Education Association Field Representative Vickie Walsh, who is representing the Kinnelon Education Association (KEA) in contract negotiations.
"The members of the Kinnelon Education Association take pride in educating the students in Kinnelon. To be clear, there is no organized effort to 'work to the contract,'" Walsh said Friday.
At Thursday night's Kinnelon Board of Education meeting, several board members expressed their disappointment that the teachers have been offering extra help on the same, single day. According to Interim Superintendent of Schools Diane DiGiuseppe, the teachers are "exercising the language of their contract," which states they should offer at least one day of extra help after school on a day of their choosing.
Board Member Katie Stylianou implied the same-day extra help situation was a reaction to the ongoing contract negotiations between the board and the KEA.
"We're worried about getting them this contract but they're hurting our children," she said.
In June, board members also expressed disappointment that none of the high school teachers had signed up to volunteer to help with the Kinnelon High School commencement ceremony.
KEA President Tom Shannon said the board members are focusing on the wrong thing.
"It would seem to me that instead of focusing on an issue that simply reflects the teachers diligently and professionally working within the limitations of an expired contract that the board members should be more upset about not knowing the number of concessions the KEA has offered within this lengthy process," he said.
Shannon said board members came to the last negotiations meeting unaware of many of the concessions the KEA has made. He said this was "disheartening."
"How can we make reasonable progress when board members do not receive the correct, comprehensive information from its own representative?" he asked. "The board has an internal concern that needs greater attention than the KEA’s adherence to an expired contract."
But Kinnelon Board of Education President Margaret Zybrick said she feels the board has paid attention to the requests of the KEA, which mainly pertain to salaries and vacation time, but is restricted in what it can grant the teachers because of the state-mandated 2 percent cap.
"We've given them what we feel is a very fair offer in light of the economic times we're facing and the restrictions we have based on the 2 percent cap," she said. "There's nothing else we can do."
Zybrick also said she, and other board members, feel the same-day extra help being offered by the teachers is not fair to students.
"I think, in all fairness, several of the board members were extremely upset about the whole Thursday after school help [situation]. You mean to tell me teachers in the school can only have after school help on Thursdays? I mean, come on, we're a litle more perceptive than that," she said.
Zybrick said she feels the disappointment of the board will be echoed by parents as well.
"Parents are going to be extremely upset and at the end of the day, the only ones that really suffer are the children," she said.
Walsh said it was "unfortunate" that board members are disappointed in the teachers, but that the teachers have not had an easy time throughout the negotiations process either.
"The members of the Kinnelon Education Association have been working with an expired collective bargaining agreement since July 1, 2011. They have participated in numerous activities in the community. I sincerely believe they have taken the high road in a very difficult and prolonged contract negotiations," she said.
Briefs from both parties are due to a fact-finder in October, at which point a report will be written and recommendations issued for how the parties move forward with a new contract.
"It is our sincere hope that the report will be accepted by both parties," Walsh said.