WAYNE, NJ – Through sheer force of will, members of the local, county and state teachers unions pushed the Wayne Board of Education (BOE) to vote to restore Wayne Education Association (WEA) President Eda Ferrante to her Full-time release status at Thursday’s BOE meeting.
According to BOE President, Michael Bubba, the motion passed at last night's meeting was neither legal or ethical and “We will file against anyone who voted yes.”
As previously reported by TAPinto Wayne, a New Jersey Superior Appeals Court ruled in late August of this year that paying a Full-Time Release Union President with public funds was against public policy. Within days of that ruling, the Wayne School District, led by Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback, and under advice from the district’s attorney, John Geppert, forced Ferrante to go back to teaching full-time. See Story.
At every BOE meeting since, representatives of the Wayne, Passaic County and State Education Associations have urged the board to change their stance. Close to one hundred members came to the September 19 meeting and forced Wayne Schools District Superintendent to begin negotiations on the matter. See story.
At Thursday’s meeting, Eda Ferrante broke her public silence addressing the board and administration as the last of fifteen speakers which included Secretary/Treasurer Steve Beatty of the New Jersey Education Association, Passaic County Freeholder Deputy Director Sandi Lazzara, Freeholder Terry Duffy (who’s son serves on the Wayne BOE) and Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano, all of which urged that the matter be resolved.
BOE member Cathy Kazan was the first to react. “It should not have been done this way,” she said referring to how quickly the Wayne School District Administration reacted to the court’s decision. “It is past time for the board to act,” she said before putting a motion on the floor:
“I move, effective immediately, the district honors the current contract in force, until such time as a sidebar is negotiated and approved by all interested parties.” She added one more thing: “And that the doctrine of necessity be evoked so that everyone can vote.”
The crowd of union members in the Wayne Council Chambers erupted in cheers, which got louder when BOE member Sean Duffy seconded the motion.
District Attorney John Geppert warned the Board about the legality of their action, saying that what they were doing was a violation of a state statute and was unethical.
Geppert then read the doctrine of necessity which stated that since six of the nine board members had conflicts of interest in the matter (either they were members of NJEA or were related to members of NJEA or WEA, or received campaign donations from WEA), they were not allowed to vote, but since that meant there could not be a quorum, an extra-legal exception was made, so now all could vote on the matter.
Still, the concerns continued with several BOE members including Vice President, Stacey Scher, Ellen Albanese and Mitch Badiner saying that they did not have enough information to make a vote in good conscience. Since they had conflicts of interest it turns out that they were never given details from the administration in regard to the matter.
Questions were asked of the administration, but it was clear that the they did not want to discuss the negotiations in public. Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback said it would be the sensible thing to do to go to executive session where the BOE could be brought up to speed on information in a private meeting.
His words were met with dissension from the crowd and Kazan refused to pull her motion.
“We have no choice but to go to a vote,” said Bubba.
The vote passed 5-0 with Kazan, Duffy, Giordano, Pavlak and Scher voting Yes and Badin, Albanese and Bubba abstaining, while Pudup was absent from the meeting.
“I believe in this case it was an illegal motion,” said Bubba before his vote. “This is tantamount to running the district and that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s not ethical so I am definitely abstaining.”
The news was greeted with cheers from a jubilant audience.
Ferrante was happy with the way things turned out. “Naturally I’m pleased that cooler heads prevailed and recognized that we have a contract. Restoring me to Full-Time Release will allow me to do my job. I feel fortunate that I’m going to be able to go back and do that.”
Toback and Geppert would not comment after the meeting.