As the negotiating process for a new Kinnelon Education Association (KEA) contract continues, one resident urged the Kinnelon Board of Education (BOE) to settle with the teachers Thursday night.
"I see the lack of respect and the fact that, as a board, you are not valuing your education association because you're not settling their contract," Monarch Way resident Kathy Klein said.
Klein said she has watched her son go through the Kinnelon school system and has always been proud of the district. She said she has been fond of the way the district seemed to value educational decisions, that will positively impact the students, over decisions that will please the taxpayers.
But now, Klein said she is disappointed that the board has not agreed to the contract with the teachers.
The KEA and BOE have been negotiating for more than a year now. Since the parties continue to disagree, a report is being developed by a fact-finder, the results expected to provide a recommendation for how the BOE and KEA move forward with a new contract.
Throughout the negotiating process, some have been disappointed with the teachers' actions as well. Board members expressed concern over teachers only agreeing to stay the minimum afterschool extra help days required in their previous contract and some parents were disheartened after teachers did not volunteer to assist with the Kinnelon High School graduation ceremony last year.
BOE President Margaret Zybrick said Friday the board is interested in moving forward with the KEA on a new contract, but that there is a difference of opinion.
"The BOE would like nothing more than to settle the contract and move forward. The BOE has made what we consider a very fair, reasonable and fiscally-responsible offer," she said. "The Negotiations Committee has met serveral times with members of the KEA to move this process along with the ultimate goal of ratification. However, they have not accepted our offer and thus we are at the fact-finding stage."
Zybrick said the board does value the staff and hopes to be able to offer a contract that would be regarded as "fair," but financial considerations must be made as well, given the state mandated 2 percent budget cap the district must not raise its budget above. Under the state law, the cap can be waived, but only if the reasons for spending above a 2 percent increase are approved by voters in a referendum and then by a state education agency.
"We also have a responsibility to our community to adhere to this 2 percent cap," she said.