Roxbury Teachers' Distrust of School Board is Here to Stay, Warns Union

Roxbury teachers stand in support of union president Cindy Knill
Roxbury teachers' union president Cindy Knill addresses school board

ROXBURY, NJ – The relationship between Roxbury teachers and the school board may never go “back the way it was” warned the president of its teachers’ union tonight, contending the board’s actions in the ongoing contract dispute with teachers “destroyed any trust that may have existed” in days gone by.

Roxbury Education Association President Cindy Knill said the bad blood generated by the protracted contract battle will last a long time.

“About a week ago, an administrator in this district commented that this conflict needed to be settled and that she needs her district back that way it was,” said Knill at tonight’s board meeting. “Unfortunately, I fear that may never happen. When this board made the decision to post, publish, and provide to the public what should have remained confidential negotiations proposals, they destroyed any trust that may have existed between the parties.”

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The union takes issue with the board’s decision to publicly discuss the sticking point between itself and the union: teacher salary guides. Knill said it was “unconscionable” for the board to even suggest new salary guides - much less discuss them publicly - after the union presented a salary guide when it and the board settled on the total amount of money the teachers would receive in the new pact.

“At no time during the entire bargaining process did this board bring up or discuss with this association that they believed there was a need to restructure our current salary guide,” said Knill. “Never. We had no idea this was even a consideration.”

The teachers have been working under a contract that expired June 20, 2014.

The board and the union are scheduled to meet again on March 17. At its Feb. 22 meeting, the school board vowed that the contract dispute will be settled that day. Knill suggested tonight the union plans to stand its ground on the salary guide matter.

At recent meetings, the board presented its side of the contract issue, rebutting Knill’s position, including her assertion that the salary guide details needed to remain secret. Tonight it kept silent on the topic and board president Ron Lucas adjourned the meeting right after the teachers in attendance finished applauding Knill.

Knill repeatedly stressed the disdain among teachers for the school board runs deep “Relationships are necessary to the success of any organization,” she said. “Trust no longer exists in the Roxbury school system.”

She said union members believe they can no longer trust the board. “Negotiation, by its very nature, requires that both sides share trust,” she said. “It became quite clear about a month ago that any trust only existed on the side of the association.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board announced it has reached a contract agreement with the district’s school administrators, who are covered by a separate contract that expired at the same time as did the teachers’ pact. It said the contract, which covers about 22 employees, provides the administrators, principals, vice-principals and others with 2.35 percent retroactive raises.

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