BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Teachers and members of the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA) held a rally in front of Columbia Middle School early this evening, prior to a mediation session.

The Negotiation committees for the BHEA and Board of Education were to meet tonight at the school.  This will be the second mediation session since the contract expired at the end of June. The first session was in July.

Earlier today, prior to the mediation session, Board of Education Vice President and Chair of the Negotiations Committee Bill Cassano said, "Our negotiating team is looking forward to a productive meeting this evening as the two sides continue working towards reaching a settlement.  We hope to agree on the remaining open items and come to terms on a new contract tonight."

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President of the BHEA Pam Wilczynski said, “Our membership is out in full force tonight to show solidarity. We want a fair and equitable contract.” She spoke at the previous Board of Education meeting on the need to have a new contract. 

Wilczynski said she and the association members were staying positive and “hoping to settle the contract quickly.”

Tony Knuth, who lives across from the school, said he has “five kids in the district, in three different schools. I see how teachers do extra work and go out of their way to teach and help our kids. It’s a shame they have to do this every three years” to get a new contract. He said he stopped by to ask what parents could do to support the teachers.

Marchers included teachers, custodians and secretarial personnel, their children and even a dog. There were also association members from the Union Township and Elizabeth Education associations. 

A number of drivers waved and honked their support as they passed by the school.