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Montclair Teachers Step Up Contract Fight

Teachers will only perform contractually-obligated work starting on Tuesday

The Montclair teachers' union is urging its members to pack the board of education meeting on Monday night, and has announced that teachers will begin "working to contract" as of Tuesday.

That means that teachers will only perform work for which they are obligated by contract. The union has also asked its members to calculate the number of hours they've volunteered without pay since school started in September.

"In an effort to demonstrate the countless hours that MEA association members volunteer in the Montclair Public School District, we are asking each MEA member to compile a list of activities that are performed by MEA members beyond contract time and without compensation," the union wrote.

Teachers were asked to include the amount of time spent readying their room, helping students during lunch, and meeting with parents.

The Montclair Board of Education said Thursday that it had reached an impasse in negotations with the union.

frank scaraggi February 24, 2013 at 10:43 AM
please include the many days and free time that teachers get paid and do NOTHING. Don't forget to mention how superior their benefits plan is.
frank scaraggi February 24, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Teachers should stop complaining and teach!!
Donna Carrara February 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM
The demands on a teacher far exceed the pay scale and the time off. To tick off a few expectations: ongoing professional development in the form of workshops or course work, adjusting lessons to meet the diversity of learners, parent contact, social emotional issues that run the gamut from divorce to bullying; this is a small slice of what is expected of a teacher. Mr. Scaraggi spend one day in a classroom and then make a comment. Donna Carrara
Judy February 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Mr. Scarraggi is clearly not a teacher. I am, although I work in another district. I spend countless hours planning my lessons, preparing my classroom, meeting with my students... and in Paterson, where I teach, we are in our fourth year without a contract! I have had children in the Montclair schools for 15 years. Teachers have gone above and beyond countless times for my kids, including once driving an hour away to visit my son in the hospital on a weekend. Not every teacher is perfect, but I've met very few who "do nothing"!
Judy February 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM
And I'm sure my PEA comrades join me in supporting the MEA in getting a fair and equitable contract. With the taxes we pay, we should have well paid teachers and be able to attract the best in the field and retain them!
ira shor February 24, 2013 at 02:23 PM
For our kids and our family lives, teachers hold up half the sky. Our kids spend many hours in their care over many years. Families need teachers to help them make family life successful. In Mtc, our BOE refuses to offer health care to our essential teachers' aides, even as it increases class sizes and brings more spec ed back into district, making aides only more needed. BOE cuts have produced large "surpluses" 2 yrs in a row, but it refuses to use this cash in hand to enhance our kids' learning, instead returning it to the Town Council, which spends it on over-development, such a plans to build a govt palace in town suitable for a grand TC, an unnecessary boondoggle which enriches their cronies in the real estate industry. By throwing away so-called "surpluses" the BOE pretends not to have enough to finance aides' healthcare or teacher salaries, fake claims which cheats our kids of quality schooling. There is a fake budget crisis behind which public money is being used to finance real estate over-development in this town. The money already exists to give our teachers, aides, and counselors the compensation they deserve. Families move here first and foremost for good schools, pay high prices for our homes and high taxes because kids need good schools, safe streets, leafy parks. Cutting school budgets injures our kids and our property values. BOE and TC are arms of the real estate developers not allies of families who need teachers, aides, and counselors to make a good life.
Adam February 24, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Reinvest the repeating $10M+ surplus in the schools in a manner that best improves the educational experience for the students. It might not be for higher teacher wages. If the teachers' demands far exceeded the pay, there wouldn't be a surplus of teachers. This is a power play by the unions. Unions who invested heavily in the Montclair election. Lets focus on the students and not the power play by the Unions. This is clearly going to disrupt the classrooms. What job, other than government jobs, can you do without incurring unpaid overtime, get 6 weeks off in the summer, plus many vacation days throughout the year and have such deluxe health care and retirement packages? Most jobs requiring a college degree also require repeated training for on-going certification or to be competitive.
Montclair's Own February 24, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Adam, As far as I understand it, the MEA isn't asking for higher wages, nor better benefits. In fact, the teachers in Montclair and all over the state have started contributing towards their health for the better part of 2 years now, and that payment will only keep going up. So I ask you, if their salaries don't go up, and their contributions to health and pension go up, where are they gaining in all of this? Plus, they consistently work beyond the contract that they are bound to, by doing extra (unpaid) clubs, letters of recommendation, hours of lesson planning and grading at home, etc. Adam, were you on these boards 2 years ago complaining about disrupting the classrooms, when the Montclair BOE cut the jobs of student-aides? Were you on here when they cut jobs, despite having a multi-million dollar surplus, which then meant class sizes are all near 30? That doesn't disrupt the classroom? I'm obviously biased, having teachers as relatives. But please, save the self-righteousness of "disrupting the classroom", unless you plan to address the things that hurt the classroom and continue to hurt the classroom in the past and today. If teachers work the contract, does that mean they aren't actually in the classroom? I think not.
Tablefor3 February 24, 2013 at 03:46 PM
This article doesn't even mention that the Board of Ed filed a notice of impasse. The teachers' plan to work to contract seems timed to that response. Why isn't the district negotiating? I've been in the district for 3 years, and I've observed that our teachers and aides are hardworking, caring people who give 110% to their jobs (not to say there isn't the exception, but they are rare). As I've watched the board's relationship to its employees over the years, it has infuriated me that the board has been so hostile to providing adequate health care to aides while scapegoating teachers. Working to contract seems like a reasonable response - why should they volunteer their time if the board isn't willing to negotiate? if we want our teachers to do more, we should pay them for all of their work.
Montclair's Own February 24, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Tablefor3, That's the point that seems to be glossed over...that the Board chose to file the impasse and stop negotiating, not the teachers. Nonetheless, the stellar reporting here on the Patch forgot that.
Adam February 24, 2013 at 04:10 PM
No, I wasn't on the board 2 years ago. Yes, I was here when they cut jobs, before anyone started scratching the surface of how the school tax money was being spent. I was also here when reports were delivered at boe meetings showing that people not working for the school but were receiving benefits through the schools funds and there was going to be a "fiscal" audit done (the results of which were never published). There was a lack of accountability where the money was going before this report and before the part time aides lost there benefits. There is more accountability now and the result is huge repeated surpluses. I implore the boe to do the right thing by the students and use the new found money wisely. I do believe most teachers are great at their job and invest a great deal personally in their work. I don't believe you can ever put a price tag on the value of each individual teacher. However, the personal satisfaction they get out of their job whether it is from seeing a student grasp a new concept with great sense of pride and satisfaction (I've worked as an aide in the classroom, I get it), or their schedule of hours or the promise of a comfortable retirement along with the current pay and extra time requirements they invest outside of contractual hours, there isn't a shortage of teachers.
tryintosurvive February 24, 2013 at 04:12 PM
As long as whatever is agreed to does not require the budget (and hence taxes) to go up then it should be fine. Montclair people already pay much higher taxes than 90% of the towns in NJ. The negotiatons should all be capped at the current or a reduced overall budget for the schools. I believe that the other town employees contracts (police, fire, etc) are also under negotation or soon to be. Obviously the town could not allow all new contracts to result in increased expeditures. Where would the money come from?
Laura Gardner February 24, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Both of my children dream of being able to return to Montclair and live after college and successful careers. The biggest reason for their 'dream big' vision for the future is the Montclair public schools and the teachers who provide a stunningly superior education.
jim February 24, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Let the teachers do only what their contract tells them to do. Doubtful you will see a difference. This way we don't have to hear their whining anymore.
Montclair Public February 24, 2013 at 05:17 PM
there is one reason why this is happening -- christie method of demonizing public employes, hiring of an outside attorney at serious cost to taxpayers, refusal to reinstate health benefits for aides or negotiate respectfully and now impasse -- and that is because the school board is dominated by an anti-labor faction that has turned this into a personal agenda. i don't have to mention names; anyone who has following this knows who they are. it has turned ugly because these folks struck a belligerent tone from the outset. they are clueless as to kind of environment they are creating, when some parents turn on educators and treat them with disdain and children develop the same disrespect. my wish is for these board members to go to sleep every night worried how they will manage without health care or to walk into their work place and know what it is like to be treated like they are an impediment, not as asset.
Lisa February 24, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Isn’t the board supposed to show support for the employees of the Montclair Bd of Ed.? I have a great deal of respect for the educators who seven to eight hours a day teach, and care for, my two middle school children. I consulted the 2009 - 2012 contract salary tables and noticed that from step 2 -10, a master level teacher receives a pay increase of roughly a thousand dollars a year, frequently less. The aide’s and teaching assistants often maintain the same salary from year to year, and at best receive an increase of an additional $00.25 per hour. In spite of this and rising health costs, educators continue to give tirelessly to their students, working way beyond contract time to meet the varied needs of their students. Why has the board called an impasse, when the MEA is willing to continue negotiations? The board should be working hard to create an equitable contract for our teachers.
tryintosurvive February 24, 2013 at 06:55 PM
I consulted the list of salaries for Montclair and found that over 150 teachers make more than $90,000. That sounds like a living wage.
B.R. February 24, 2013 at 07:16 PM
trlyintosurvive - Please put the teacher's salaries in perspective. Yes, there are individuals who have been working for 16 to 18 years who have reached a salary of $90,000. These are highly educated individuals, who in the business sector would have received this salary within several years. Do not glamorize a salary of $90,000 when you have a MA and 16 years into the system, plus a family of five. The top salary for a teacher with a BA after 16 years is $83,029. Yes, it's a living wage, but consider the years spent earning it.
tryintosurvive February 24, 2013 at 07:27 PM
B.R. Those are a fair points that should be taken into account. Of course there are other things that need to be taken into account as well. A teacher's health insurance benefit is worth $10,000 to $20,000 per year. Unused time off is accumulated and money for this is collected at retirement. There is a pension. The work in for less than 10 months with multiple days off during those 10 months. I think that $83,029 is certainly worth over $100,000 for an equivalent job in the private sector.
Montclair Public February 24, 2013 at 07:57 PM
No one is advocating a blank check for teachers. I, in fact, am not against the recent forced increase in contributions to pension, health, etc. I think teachers in Montclair have been and are well-compensated. It's the tone this board has adopted, especially when Ms. Lombard was president. it's the cold and dismissive attitude it has collectively demonstrated with aides, some of whom have practically begged them to reconsider what the numbers soon after revealed did not have to be done. it is the treatment of education budgets as if they are some corporate plan to maximize profit without proper consideration of the town's diverse and complex needs. they talk about addressing high taxes to preserve racial and economic diversity-- no one disputes that issue -- but wanting such diversity brings an obligation to commit to the needs of children whose parents are without the means to provide things the school can't or won't provide.
Clark son February 25, 2013 at 12:01 AM
For better reference: Let us not forget that over the course of the last 2 contracts we dropped the teachers back 3 steps on their salary guides. So, it is closer to 19-20 years before they reach top salary. So, for example, a teacher with 16 years experience, is actually getting paid on step 13, etc...
tryintosurvive February 25, 2013 at 12:03 AM
One of the problems is that every year, every employee gets a raise. I know they call these step increases, but in essence it is a raise every year for every employee. Benefit costs go up every year as well, some of them like health benefits go up substantially. So in order for total expenditures to remain within an already large budget (>$100 million) some adjustments or reductions need to be made.
Clark son February 25, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Thats not completely accurate, tryin'. With the new laws in place in NJ, the teachers increases are not exceeding the health and pension increases that they must contribute. So, they have not been actually realizing a raise.
QBY33 February 25, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Please Ira, come and say that in front of the community and BOE at the meeting tomorrow evening. It deserves to be heard again and again! Thank you. Signed, A dedicated Teaching Assistant.
QBY33 February 25, 2013 at 12:33 AM
Wow! Some really great comments on here. I hope all come to the BOE meeting tomorrow night at 7:30pm to support your teachers and paraprofessionals!
Kelly smith February 25, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Actually, to be fair, teachers have not reviewed any adequate raise for some time. Don't forget the fact that the contract itself was actually frozen for a year. This year, there have been no raises either. What teacher do you know lives in a mansion that they pay for based on their salary? Teachers are not given a great deal of "vacation" time during the school year. They are given 2 personal days with reason and two without reason. They are given sick days. Believe it ur not, they get sick too. Yes, the days accumulate, but they are not compensated for all of the days when they retire. The funny part is that parents will gladly spend $800 to buy their kids a new iPhone, but they are all up in arms when it comes to teacher salaries. Montclair is not, nor ever will be, a cheap town to live in. Teacher salaries are not the brunt if that. How many people would move to Montclair if there was a terrible school system? The priorities are backwards.
tryintosurvive February 25, 2013 at 04:23 AM
According to the BOE website it looks like teachers get 22 days off during the school year. These include public holidays (5), religious (2), full week breaks of 5 days each (winter and spring), teachers convention (2) and a few others.
Kelly smith February 25, 2013 at 04:34 AM
As do many private sectors. Teachers do not just teach. They are mothers, fathers, psychologists, doctors, and friends. Most parents would not know what to do with themselves if they had to take care of their children all day every day. I'm sorry, correct me if I am wrong, but do you know how to educate a child? Do you know how to differentiate instruction to make sure each and every child walks away not just learning, but understanding? Can you control 25 students for six hours a day? Do you know what it is like to have the responsibility of the future if this country? Let's put this into perspective as well. Do you know how much money a teacher spends each year on resources for their classroom? Resources that are needed everyday to educate the students, but are not provided for by the schools? Do you know that many elementary schools do not provide teachers with pencils, paper, folders, etc let alone reproduceable books to enhance student learning? Or how about the fact that they implement new curriculums without buying the necessary materials? No, I bet you don't take that into consideration.
Cheryl Spinelli February 25, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Monday - Friday, teachers care for our children during more of their waking hours than we do. They take on all kinds of responsiblity that does not fall under their job description, and do it willingly. Classroom sizes expand along with their workload and responsibilities. I am not completely sure of what is being asked from the teachers union, but recognition of their expanded responsiblities is in order. It is not out of order to be compensated for one's work. How many of us expect to do work that they are not compensated for? I was a volunteer and PTA president in the district for more years than I care to count and I can tell you that the bulk of the staff in the Montclair School System are deserving of recognition for services rendered. And if you want to keep good staff, you need to pay them. If not, pay peanuts, get monkeys.

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