Several members expressed their disappointment Thursday night in Kinnelon teachers grades 6 through 12 who have decided to offer after-school extra help just one day a week and on the same day.
Board Member Katie Stylianou said she had heard "buzz" in the community that teachers were only staying late to offer extra help on Thursdays. Interim Superintendent of Schools Diane DiGiuseppe confirmed Stylianou's concerns and said the teachers were "exercising the language in their contracts."
Stylianou said the actions of the teachers were "very sad" and "now they're going to hurt the same children that they're professing to help." She said she was concerned about the students.
"We're worried about getting them this contract but they're hurting our children," she said.
The Kinnelon teachers and Kinnelon Education Association (KEA) have with the Kinnelon Board of Education on a new contract for more than a year. Board Member Keith Dama, who chairs the board's negotiations committee, updated the board at Thursday night's meeting that a fact-finder had come in and met with both parties during a hearing in August. Last week, Vickie Walsh, a field representative for the New Jersey Education Association who is representing the KEA in negotiations, said "the parties were not able to settle on their own."
The fact-finder was scheduled to begin preparing a non-binding report, but Dama said both parties decided to submit briefs to the fact-finder before the report was written. The briefs are due by Oct. 1. Walsh said the report may not be issued before November or December, possibly pushing negotiations back closer to the new year.
"We're just in a holding pattern," she said.
DiGiuseppe said the language in the expired contract teachers are still operating under says they are to provide at least one day of extra help after school during a weekday of their choosing. The district supplements this extra help with math and language help sessions that are stipend-paid and DiGiuseppe said these sessions will be scheduled on alternate days from the one day the teachers are offering extra help.
Board President Margaret Zybrick also expressed her disappointment in the actions of the teachers. She said the board "attempted to open every door" to the KEA during negotiations but that they have been unable to reach an agreement.
"The reality is they're using this as a tool to force our hands at things we can't do," she said.
Dama mentioned the 2 percent state-mandated cap which the district is restricted by in raising its budget. Because of the cap, Dama said the district is limited in its capacity to spend.
"After we pay for health costs, there's less and less money to pay for everything the school district needs," he said.
Board Member Denise Hatch said the board was in a difficult position because of the 2 percent cap.
"I don't know where you get money where there isn't," she said.
Board Member Marianne DeAlessi said she thinks the actions of the teachers will not only negatively affect students, but the teachers, themselves, as well.
"We're going to see test scores go down and it's going to be a reflection of the teachers," she said.
DeAlessi also said the teachers' decision implies disinterest in their chosen careers.
"I think it shows their level of commitment to their profession," she said. "This is certainly a lack of professionalism."