ROXBURY, NJ – Frustrated by the prolonged contract dispute between the Roxbury teachers’ union and the school board, about 30 parents met tonight and said they will urge others to attend Monday’s board meeting to press the board to end the ordeal.
Gathering in the Roxbury Public Library meeting room, some of the parents said the fact that it’s been nearly 600 days since the teacher’s contract expired is hurting children and giving Roxbury a bad reputation.
“Roxbury already has a black mark for the Fenimore dump,” said Robin Snyder, one of the parents who organized the informal get-together. “The last thing we need is to have a marked district (where people say) we don’t support our teachers. We may not be able to control, ourselves, what’s been done at Fenimore at this point, but we certainly have in our control the ability to ask the board to negotiate with teachers and settle this contract.”
The teachers are working under a contract that expired June 30, 2014. The board and union are in disagreement over the way raises will be dispersed; the union contends the board wants to add too many unwarranted salary “steps” in the new contract but the board says its plan will allow new teachers to more quickly increase their wages.
The two sides are scheduled to return to the negotiating table March 17.
Angeline Stierch, another parent who set up tonight’s meeting, questioned why the school board was getting involved in proposing salary guides. She noted that both the board and the union agreed, last fall, on an overall compensation figure and she said the union should decide how to dole out the raises.
“Typically, the union makes the salary guides,” said Stierch. “The union made a salary guide based on where the teachers were (in their careers) and then the board of education made its own salary guide. I’ve never heard of that happening before.”
The school board posted on its website an explanation of its proposal. The union did not do the same, but union president Cindy Knill, at the Feb. 8 board meeting, read a statement that gives the union’s position.
Snyder said she thinks the board’s plan appears to be good for teachers at the bottom and top of the salary guides but not so good for those in the middle due to the addition of more salary steps. “The reality is, many teachers will not get to the end of the salary guide,” she said. “Money would be best given to teachers in the middle of their careers.”
At the Feb. 8 meeting, Knill said the teachers will no longer participate in extra-curricular, after-hours activities. Some of the parents at tonight’s gathering said the teachers, while complying with this union decision, aren’t happy.
“It’s killing them to just leave (at the end of the day),” said one woman. “They don’t want it that way.”
Stierch agreed. “That’s an important message,” she said. “Teachers want to be at their students’ graduations. That’s the culmination of everybody in the district’s hard work. I really don’t want to believe, in any part of my being, that my teacher would be happy to take the night off and not see a student graduate.”