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Resident: People No Longer Praising School District

One resident worries about the damage done to the district by the negotiations.

To the Editor:

I need to voice my concerns about the between the board of education and the . 

I have been a resident of Bridgewater for the past 33 years. Both of my sons received the benefit of an excellent Bridgewater-Raritan education from kindergarten through 12th grade.

I must say that my husband and I were very lucky when we purchased our house in Bridgewater. We did not have children at the time and had not done any research regarding school districts. I remember when people would ask where I lived they would say what a great school district Bridgewater-Raritan was.

I honestly don’t hear that anymore and I believe it is a real cause for concern. I am truly worried for the families that have children who are currently enrolled as students in Bridgewater-Raritan district, or younger children who have yet to begin their education. 

I have been fortunate enough to work for the for the past 22+ years. I truly enjoy my job, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that things are “not the same”.  The stress the governor has caused by what he has been doing and saying about the education system in New Jersey is absolutely ridiculous, and yet our board of education seems to have “jumped on his band wagon” 100 percent.

Are there some changes that need to be made? Absolutely! But the lack of respect that I have been feeling from our board of education is very unsettling [and I am not a teacher]. In one breath, we are being told how wonderful we all are, and then in the next breath, we are told that monetarily we are worth basically nothing. All we are asking for is a fair settlement.

I know that things are difficult everywhere, but what needs to be remembered is that not every person working in education is married to someone working in education. There are many of us who have spouses who are out of work or making less money than they were in the past. We have many people who are single and trying to survive on one income. I have never understood the mentality of “if I don’t have it, I don’t want you to have it either”. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

I have never written a letter to the board of education. It truly makes me sad that I am doing it now, but I can’t sit by any longer and accept the “status quo”. Something needs to be done to settle a contract between the B-R BOE and the B-REA, and it needs to be done soon. 

Can someone give me an honest answer as to why that hasn’t happened yet? 

Please stop listening to all of the naysayers and get back to what we do best—working together to give the children of Bridgewater-Raritan one of the best educations in the state. 

Sincerely,

Debra Trapani

sodisappointed May 04, 2012 at 10:08 AM
Very well said. It is all so true. The BOE needs to settle NOW!! Stop hurting the kids and start respecting the teachers!
Wilbur May 04, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Sodisappointed: Does "respecting" the teachers mean simply giving them everything they are asking for?
Stacey Friedlander May 04, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Nice job Debra! We moved here last year not just because of the home we found, but because we found our dream home in a great town and a great school district. As a teacher myself in another district, in another county, I can truly say without a doubt, that what you say is absolutely TRUE! People constantly shake their heads now when speaking of our once highly reputable school district, however, not because they think the schools or teachers are not of great quality, but because of the negotiations with the current BOE and the union. We've even heard friends say they are no longer looking at homes in Bridgewater, and it's unfortunate. I love this town that I now call home, and I hope that by the time my son enters K next Fall that this will be settled. These negotiations should be a "team" effort and there has got to be a way to come to some sort of FAIR agreement b/w BOTH parties. I truly wish for an end before the end of the school year.
Matthew B May 04, 2012 at 12:47 PM
The BOE only cares about A I Program. A selfish group of individuals indeed. Shame on them all...
denise May 04, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Very well said Debra-as a parent of a high school student and an employee of a different school district I do not understand the mentality of people blaming teachers for their property taxes being increased and almost everything else they can think of. Teachers have been bashed far too long now and it really needs to stop. PS I am not a teacher
Toni May 04, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Dear BOE....SETTLE NOW! This is ridiculous and has gone on long enough. I'm tired of reading negative press about our school district, and I will remember this each time one of you seeks re-election. Both sides need to be locked in a room and not allowed out without a settlement.
C Oneill May 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Get over it the district is overstaffed with administrative help. The administrative support staff in many schools is rude,unproductive and overpaid. Why do educators think they deserve free benefits shouldnt be held accountable.The HS was poorly run until this year, many teachers in the HS dont care about the students, coaches are interested in their won loss record and not student athletes. Three cheers for the Board. A Former Board Member
Bill Matthewson May 04, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Wow, you're a former board member, who once had the authority to craft educational policy in this town? That is scary, given your 2nd-grade writing style, your inane comments, and your overall lack of sophistication. I hope our current board members are more educated than you are.
Mike May 05, 2012 at 03:48 PM
@C Oneill: I'd wager you base comments like "many teachers in the HS dont [sic] care about the students" on hearsay, or, at best, one or two conversations. Like the BoE member who I heard say, at a public meeting in the spring of 2010, that since his daughter took Spanish in school but couldn't converse on her spring break trip to Mexico, the foreign language program (at least at the lower grades) was a waste of time. Probably the same genius who thought late buses at MS and HS were a waste because "the kids should catch the regular bus" and "I'll bet the late buses are empty." I'd also wager you have never researched what things are like in other districts so you'd have *GASP!* a frame of reference. And do cite your sources for your claim that "educators think they deserve free benefits." You're either a poseur (i.e., not really a former BoE member), or grossly incompetent/ignorant. If the latter, thank goodness you're a FORMER member; if the former, keep catapulting the propaganda - those of us with more than two functioning neurons will seek bona fide data. You may now un-mute NJ 101.5.
KM May 06, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I challenge any one of the Board members, or anyone else who is curious and perhaps interested in knowing the real deal, to spend a day in the life of a teacher. And don't forget, you'll have to go home with her/him to see all of the prep work (lesson planning, correcting, emailing parents) that is necessary too. Yes, I am a teacher. I love my job, firstly my kids, then my subject matter. And no matter how bad things get between the BOE & the staff I will never let my students suffer for it. But I have no respect for the BOE and the members of the community who continue to complain and criticize and highlight one bad example as exemplary of teachers in general. They are looking for a fight, and looking to "win", and not interested in seeing the real value they are getting for their money, or the fact that the majority of us still give it all we have because we are honorable and we care about the children of our community.
Susie-Q May 06, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I think if the BOE would answer some simple questions everyone would see the real truth here: How can you justify giving the top administrators a raise that exceeds the cap the governor is imposing a year earlier than the contracts were up? Why are you choosing to abandon the win-win method of negotiating but would rather pay an attorney $160 per hour to do so, when that money could be going to the kids? Why are you leading all of us to believe that a negotiated teacher's contract will mean increased taxes when you are fully aware that there has be almost 9 million dollars in "found" money and additional money gained from the teachers' benefit changes? Please members of the BOE, honestly answer these questions.
Katherine May 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Wilbur, dDo you know what the BREA is asking for? Do you know what we have given back to the dirstrict? I think if oyu had your facts you would realize that we are asking for very little. That is why this BOE is so unreasonable. I will get nothing even with the percentage the BREA is asking for. They are not asking for enought to provide teachers at the top of the guide with anything. I guess that makes me very greedy, right?
ARC May 07, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I am a BRRSD elementary special education teacher. I am also a recent home buyer. When my husband and I started looking for houses about 2 years ago, Bridgewater made the most sense for both our jobs. I was obviously close to mine and he would be able to easily hop the train to get to his job. You could get a big backyard while still being in a neighborhood, which satisfied both our needs. Being a teacher in-district, I was confident that our future children would have teachers who were both excellent and caring. We focused our search mostly in Bridgewater, reluctantly viewing houses in other areas. In the meantime, I was seeing first hand where the future of BRRSD was going. The BOE was making illogical curriculum choices despite the opinions of their highly trained teaching professionals. The BOE was out to "beat" the BREA rather than work collaboratively with them. The BOE was concerned with the bottom line rather than the students, teachers, and as far as my home buying experience goes, my property value. Truthfully, we continued to look in Bridgewater, but deep down it made me nervous. I thought about how worn out and demoralized my colleagues and I felt and wondered - If this is now, where would the situation be in say 7 years from now, when I was sending a child through the district? I still work here, but we bought somewhere else.
Wilbur May 07, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Katherine: I jave been following this story for a long while now, looking at what both sides are saying. It appears to me that not much in the way of reasonable negotiations is taking place, and both sides share the blame on that. I never called anyone "greedy". However, I will say that I personally have not had a raise in 3 years now, and I too pay for my healthcare. Yes, that absolutely sucks, but it is the unfortunate economic situation we are in now. I don't understand how we justify some of the administration salaries we are carrying. I also remember a time Bridgewater was paying more than one superintendent salary due to turnovers at that position. The problems with the school budgeting have been going on for years now, but the way the economy is hitting home, everyone is jnow ust starting to pay attention, and speaking up. I do not think the teachers are greedy. However, I do think they are being unrealistic.
BRRES May 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
As a concerned resident with children in the district. I agree with what people are saying, the district is no longer looked up to as one of the best. I think the current BOE needs to let their ego's go and settle with the BREA. They are clearly not doing what is best for OUR children. I feel what the teachers are asking for is not a budget breaking. From what I have heard, the teachers and other staff members are paying more towards their pensions and more towards their healthcare. So, it's not just a pay freeze that the board would like to see, they are losing money (each year of the contract.) No wonder we hear talk of low morale, who wouldn't. As a resident, I am really concerned about the long term affects this will have on the district. How long will it take for someone to reply to the question, where do you live? When responding "In Bridgewater/Raritan", they say "Oh, they used to have a great school district, what happened?" We'll only have the BOE to thank. GO BREA, we are behind you.
MG May 08, 2012 at 01:09 AM
I have taught at the Middle School for ten years. It has been an absolutely amazing experience. What I see when I walk through the halls every day are example after example of talented, dedicated professionals at every level. The bells ring and the classes start and no matter what hallway I walk down there is room after room full of students engaged in innovative lessons. I see students smiling and content as they work through a very busy and often stressful day. I see school counselors and staff carefully and quietly helping behind the scenes to try to make that happen day after day. I hear staff members of every level and discipline bringing out student voices of compassion and insight, complex mathematics tackled with laughter and sparkling energy, teachers leading young artists to brilliant music and vibrant representations of their world, young scientists tackling hands on experiments. All around me, day in and day out, are professionals whose sole mission is to elevate our students to think, to improve and to grow. I see administrators and secretaries working tirelessly and cheerfully to keep all of the many balls of a school our size in the air with grace. I see custodians, diligently attending to every need of the building throughout the day and long into the evening. I leave every day keenly aware of how lucky I am to work with people such as these, with students such as these, and with the families that send them to us.
Mr. Had Enough May 08, 2012 at 02:40 PM
As a resident and a parent, I am going to ask if you would you all please stop your whining and fix this mess because none of you are acting in the best interest of our children or our community. You all need to employ common business sense, something you are all clearly lacking and honestly, the BREA is not helping any of you teachers and the BOE should bring someone on who understands business because clearly, they don't. We went from being a Blue Ribbon school district to being a joke...thank you all for your hard work. Teachers, you are not Wall St. executives, you are educators and you knew getting into this career that it pays modestly less than corporate jobs do. But, what did you get in return, tenure, better benefits, options for summers off, and rarely do you have to sit in a cubicle for 12 hours a day, you can grade papers and set lesson plans sitting in the comfort of your own home. Sick time.....yeah, you get plenty of that too. In corporate America, the cost of healthcare insurance has gone up immensely while the quality of the insurance has declined. Sick days often come out of vacation days, which is only 3 weeks per year if you are lucky. Retirement planning, i wish the private industry had one as good as yours. Bonuses, yeah, in this economy...lol Pay raises in the private sector, how about pay cuts becuase with the down turn of the economy, market ranges for salaries are down. BOE, you need to be a team player, not the enemy. Act smart.
Mike May 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Mr Had Enough: (1) Your governor is working hard to take away all those perks you mention; his mentor in Wisconsin is a couple of years ahead of him. (2) Summers off are unpaid (furlough, in the parlance of the private sector, but unlike the private sector, 10-month employees cannot collect unemployment). (3) In good times (and as soon as the state legislature goes all-Republican, the good times will return), most in private industry do better; current law, capping budget increases at 2%, means this will never, ever happen in the public sector. (4) Within 3 years, the average teacher will contribute $10K (17%) of his/her gross toward health insurance. Those in the private sector accept more risk and fluctuation in return for more reward; historically, those in the public sector accept stability and predictability in return for less reward (e.g., big raises, bonuses, promotions). It's pathetic what's happened to the private sector recently, but now those in the private sector want the public sector to share the pain without any hope of sharing anything positive when times change. Sick days? Don't know who you work for, but in two decades in the private sector, neither I nor anyone I knew had to dip into vacation days when they were sick. And while public sector employees get to bank sick days, they cannot participate in the state disability plan and teachers' sick payout is severely limited (unlike senior management like superintendents').
Mike May 12, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Here's an example from Wisconsin, coming to NJ before Christie is done: "Just a quick note to share some of Walker's venom. The teachers at Shannon's school, Arbor-Vitae/Woodruff, were given contracts yesterday. The pay for everyone is listed at beginning pay - BASE PAY. Can you imagine, NO steps for credits or years of service. Shannon is at 11 yrs and Masters' plus 20 credits. We're proud of her as she is more worried about single wage earners with children. School boards and administrators have been given the power to do this from Walker. This is so sad for all involved."
Mr. Double Vision May 22, 2012 at 12:46 AM
A counterargument to Mr. Had Enough I entirely agree that things have gotten out of hand and that arguments seem to be straying further and further from the point. The days of Blue Ribbon status seem to be gone which is regrettable, as this impacts our children and consequently the future well-being of the township. It seems that both parties have become so emotional that walls are being built on both sides, making a deal all the more unattainable. Teachers perceive this as disrespect as they seek recognition and compensation for their work and feel they are being taken advantage of. The school board is balancing budget concerns as they look not only at this year but future years and are afraid of being taken advantage of themselves. The economy and the increasing costs of healthcare have put additional pressure and fears on everyone, including parents, teachers, school boards, governments and so on. I also agree that the world of education can learn a lot from the private sector. The BOE could benefit from a lesson in budgeting and the state government should certainly partake as well. The current attempts to reconcile the budget all seem to be done at the expense of the employees, which is something that I feel both the public and private sectors have been enduring. th have encountered pay cuts and terminations, and schools have indeed learned from the business world in regards to the latter.
Mr. Double Vision May 22, 2012 at 12:48 AM
CONTINUED... Whereas corporations vindicate themselves of layoffs by using terms such as "rightsizing", teachers with tenure are just as easily discarded because schools wash their hands by "eliminating positions". But to your claim that teachers are exaggerating their condition and knew what they were getting when they started this career, I have to disagree. As an employee in the corporate world and as a husband to a teacher, I feel I have a vantage point of both worlds and the situation certainly seems to have changed. Whereas teachers may be considered the portfolio managers of education, who must balance the needs of various students while working towards sustainable results, we all know they're not compensated as such. It's agreed that with the down economy, we in the private sector are feeling the hurt. But when everything picks up, we at least have the prospect of cost-of-living increases, bonuses, stock options and other profit-sharing agreements. other hand, will be hoping to break even as their pay marginally rises and they have to pay increasing amounts for their "better benefits". There will be no bonuses or fancy holiday parties at the end of the year when students exceed expectations. Rather they will still be spending their own money on supplies as we in the corporate world write expense vouchers for a department lunch. Even the perks they have now are slowly being taken away, which is not something that they originally signed up for.
Mr. Double Vision May 22, 2012 at 12:50 AM
CONTINUED 2... Agreed, summers off would be great, I certain envy this part of my wife’s job. Yet I sympathize for couples in which both people are teachers and more so for single parents that are teachers, who have to stretch their salary through the summer months. And as a husband that comes home to see my wife working on lesson plans long into the evening and every weekend, I can assure you there's a large difference between sitting in the comfort of your own home and being truly available to share meals, quality time, and general conversation. Even during the week, while I'm sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned cubicle for the majority of the day, she's standing for 7+ hours when she's not chasing children down the hallway. There's no doubt, my wife and I have very different jobs and it can be argued that there's benefits on either side. Both public and private sectors are hurting right now in this economy, but when things get better we know that the market ranges for salaries will be shifting dramatically on one side. The other side will be expected to provide the same level of service and stay on top of technology without any such pay increases. Teachers are not Wall St. executives, but thank God for that. Otherwise our children would only be taught what they need to get an A on the next exam, at the sacrifice of personal attention, socialization skills, identification of areas of concern, and even a sense of caring.
Mr. Double Vision May 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM
CONTINUED 3... Our children are not products on an assembly line, nor do we want them to be. Yet teachers receive no direct benefit for the hours and dollars that they invest. To this point I'd argue that it's all the more important to recognize these employees for their contributions in order to retain that talent, a tactic that we use in business. I don't feel that teachers are asking for bonuses. Nor are they pushing for governments to make contributions to their severely underfunded pensions. Instead they seem to be clinging to what they have. Beyond that, I feel they're asking for respect, that common business sense be employed to quantify the time and commitment that they invest in the children of the township. The so-called benefits package is not what it once was for teachers, and this is not what they signed up for but I commend all those that are sticking with it. Teachers, I thank you for investing all of the hours that you put into your job, and for managing the portfolios that truly produce the greatest rate of return.
Barry July 07, 2012 at 06:24 AM
No one said teaching, or any other profession for that matter, is easy. If you don't like it, leave and do something that is more conducive to your personality. While both sides may have built up needless walls, Teachers need to realize that nearly 80% of the school budget goes towards Union items. That ratio is simply way too high. I also dislike the tactic that they often use, of using our children against us to promote higher pay and benefits. I also dislike the tactic of using our property values which will ultimately increase property taxes. At some point, when the tax burden is too high - property values will decrease. When you negotiate, you negotiate on good faith and stop using our children against us. It infuriates me to no end where I have no sympathy for the Union. The Board of Ed has a budget to adhere to. Simply raising taxes - willy nilly - is not the solution. That's what's been done in the past - our current economy does not allow for that solution. I have not received a raise in the past 3 years. What makes these teachers, better than me?

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