PATERSON, NJ- A rally that drew nearly 2,000 members of the Paterson Education Association (PEA) on Wednesday may have worked according to an email the union sent to its members obtained by TAPinto Paterson that said “a long-term tentative agreement that addresses the membership’s goals and priorities” has been reached. The agreement, the email stated, was reached after “20 hours of non-stop negotiations.”

PEA members have been working since the end of the 2016-2017 academic year without a contract, and in recent weeks have amped up their outreach efforts to educate parents and other Paterson residents about the impasse.

During a community forum in March, just days before being selected as the Superintendent of Paterson’s schools on a permanent basis, Eileen Shafer said that she intended to reach a settlement with the union within the first 100 days of her appointment. 

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Following is an account of the rally that occurred outside the Board of Education office by TAPinto Paterson contributor Valerie Gallone:

“No Contract, Still Working, Still Caring” was the theme of Wednesday’s rally in front of the Board of Education on Delaware Avenue in Paterson. As the roads were blocked off by Paterson police, the crowds piled in and the angry roars filled every heart in the audience with much sorrow, as this is not only hurting our teachers, but the children that they care for every day as well.

The crowd shouted through megaphones “What do we want? CONTRACTS! When do we want them? NOW!" as they paraded with handmade signs along with drums, whistles and cowbells. Teachers and parents marched arm in arm up to the of the Board of Education's doors, yelling loudly to ensure their voices were to be heard by those inside. Vehicles passed by, honking their horns and employees of the nearby businesses stepped out of their buildings all to show their support.

The P.E.A. and Board of Education have been negotiating since last spring which has left no contract to date. A concerned, supporting parent at the rally stated that the impasse has prevented teachers from participating in any activities that take place after school hours such as movie night. 

A key part of the discussions, sources said, are the increasing class sizes with several classrooms now holding more than 30 students.

The rally was postponed from its original date, March 8th, due to inclement weather, which teachers and supporters were hoping that it gave the Board more time to come to a decision on a contract. In a statement leading up to the rally PEA President John McEntee expressed that “our members deserve nothing less than a fair and equitable settlement, the longer this drags on, the more apparent it becomes that the Board does not respect the work that we do on behalf of our community’s schools.”