ROXBURY, NJ – Teachers and other members of the Roxbury Education Association (REA) are asking the public to show up Monday for a rally they hope will pressure the Roxbury School Board into signing a new contract.
The rally is scheduled to take place right before representatives from the union and the board meet in front of a mediator.
The “Rally for a Contract Settlement” is slated for 5 p.m. on Bryant Drive and Hillside Avenue in Succasunna, the entrance to Roxbury High School. The REA expects the gathering to last 90 minutes.
“REA members and community members come together to show the Board of Education that we are unified and that we deserve a fair contract settlement – within a reasonable time-frame!” says a post by the union on its Facebook page. “Family members of all ages are invited to join us.”
The union is unhappy that its contract with the school district expired last July.
“When we have to fight with the BOE to negotiate and settle with us, we are using time that would have otherwise been spent going above and beyond our responsibilities for the benefit of your children,” said the union in another Facebook post. “Help the Board remember what it is REA members do, and what we want our time to be spent on: educating - and caring about your kids. Tell your BOE members: Come to the next negotiations session prepared to settle.”
Union representatives could not be reached for comment. The union did not specify where the two sides are at odds other than to say, on Facebook, that it “seeks competitive wages” for its members as well as more district contribution to medical insurance cost.
“We are far from one another on these issues which has pushed us into Mediation,” the REA added.
Roxbury School Board President Leo Coakley said the board did not want the contract impasse to go into mediation but didn’t oppose the union’s move in that direction.
“The union said they would like to go to mediation and the board said we would not object to that,” Coakley said. “We thought we could continue negotiating … I don’t know why they’re having the rally but that’s their right.”
Coakley declined discussing details about the issues but suggested the board isn’t really sure what the union is seeking. “We submitted proposals to the union,” he said. “They know what our proposals are, which we intended to negotiate with them. They are not cast in stone. We don’t have theirs though. We’ll find that out.”
The mediation will be conducted by mediator Timothy Averell, who was assigned the task by the Public Employment Relations Commission, Coakley said.
Acrimony between the REA and the school board is nothing new. The contract that expired last summer was approved in April 2016 only after a year of dispute that included pickets by teachers.