SPARTA, NJ – At the same meeting where Sparta school’s Educators of the Year were recognized for their accomplishments, the Sparta Education Association’s President Susan Sawey addressed the members of the board of education.
In an unusually strongly worded statement Sawey began by complimenting the cooperative and positive relationship between two entities, at the regular Jan meeting. The tone quickly changed, however, when she then said, “I am here tonight because I am sick and tired.”
Sawey’s comments were referring to the current protracted contract negotiations. “I am sick and tired of the same nonsense whenever it’s time to bargain a contract. I’m sick and tired of waiting for this board of education to give its school employees the respect they deserve.”
The previous contract went from June 2012 through June 2015, though that agreement was not signed until Dec 12, 2013. That contract was signed by Susan Sawey and the board president Frank Favichia. It is not clear how long the parties have been negotiating the current contract. Typically the process begins before the existing contract expires.
The auditorium at Mohawk Avenue School was filled with teachers not only there to congratulate their peers but to support Sawey as she made her remarks.
Sawey continued, “If there is one thing I know…Sparta Education Association members are the smartest, toughest and most committed people around. We’re good at what we do. We don’t take anything sitting down.”
While neither side will discuss the specifics of the negations, the inference can be drawn that salary and benefits remain at the heart of the discussion. Sawey said, “We won’t sit still and let you insult us with a ridiculous salary offer…and let you ignore our escalating benefits costs and the effects on our families.”
Sawey’s comments expressed frustration at the perceived lack of respect being shown to the association members in the negotiations process. Sawey said, “The Board continues to disrespect us by continuing a culture of constantly dragging their feet and not negotiating in a timely fashion. The disrespect is shown when settling this contract is not their priority. “
In response to an inquiry, Sparta Board of Education President and Pope John music teacher Karen Scott said, “We as a board of education are taking the negotiation process very seriously. We are making progress but moving cautiously and responsibly as we want to do what is in the very best interest of the students of Sparta. We want to resolve this as soon as possible as we value our teachers and all staff members and don't want them to lose sight of how much they are valued."
The most recent negation session was already scheduled at the time of the Jan board meeting for the first week in Feb. In response to the request by TAP into for an update after the extended session, the SEA simply said the comments made at the board meeting still stand.