It’s been over eight months since the Berkeley Heights teacher contract has expired. Many students came to voice their concerns about the teacher contract at the Board of Education meeting on March 14. The Board’s response to the students who spoke, myself included, made us question their leadership.
One main student concern is acquiring teacher recommendations. We have been told that teachers will not be writing any new recommendations, which are not in their contract. Board of Education member Chris Reilly suggested to “have supervisors and administrators, and even if it takes Board of Ed. members to write letters of recommendations for these children.” This makes absolutely no sense.
There is no way that they can write a recommendation equivalent to a teacher’s since they hardly know the student. When pressed by a student, she stated, “I understand that too, but, you know, life happens…” After being booed by students, she tried to justify the recommendations: “We would be explaining the facts and circumstances that is happening right now.” The Board of Education is offering to write a letter to colleges to explain the situation. But this kind of situation should never happen for any school. This only serves to hurt students in their summer program/college applications. I understand she is trying to offer a creative solution, but this just won’t work.
Board of Education President Doug Reinstein told us, “There are a lot of great teachers who do a lot of things that go over and above.” That is 100% true. But these “great teachers” have to go to work without a [new] contract. If you’re going to acknowledge them for their great work, then give them the contract they deserve. Students understand that the total salary increases have been settled; finish the job with the salary distribution. We understand it's difficult, but it shouldn't take this long. You have been able to negotiate the contract in the past, so do it again right now.
Then he told us, “We believe in the best interests of the entire school district.” Then prove it to us. When students are losing their AP review sessions, extra-help during lunch, the ability to get a response from emails we send to teachers after school, and recommendations, can you really say you have the students’ best interests at heart? Governor Livingston’s success comes from the extra-hours teachers are willing to put in for their students. That is why the school does so well academically. How would it reflect on the district, especially on the Board, if students did poorly due to the contract negotiations?
I have tremendous respect for the work the Board of Education has done in the past. But the more this situation continues, the more I must question the leadership of the Board. Students are angry, especially the Junior class, and this needs to be resolved immediately.
Berkeley Heights Board of Education, please show your respect for the teachers and give them their contract so students don’t have to suffer too.