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Parents, Teachers: It's Time to Get it Done

A settlement has still not been reached with the BOE and B-REA after 18 months of negotiations.

Teachers and parents returned to Tuesday's board of education meeting armed with only one message—it's time to end this misery over contract negotiations.

"A lot of my fellow educators are feeling discouraged due to a lack of a settlement, and some are even reconsidering why they chose this profession," said Steve Rubin, a guidance counselor at . "Not settling the contract is not beneficial to the students. The lack of settlement is making it that much more difficult to do our jobs."

Both teachers and residents spoke out during the meeting, encouraging the board to simply settle the contract, mainly for the sake of the students themselves.

"My children have been challenged academically, and they have grown to be wonderful men and women," said Martinsville resident Patricia Cahill, who teaches at the high school, and has four children who have gone through the district. "Without the teachers who spent the time providing extra help, the coaches who encouraged, no child would be successful."

"But are we setting a good example for cooperative and collaborative work?" she added. "The children deserve to see us come to an agreeable and amicable solution to these disagreements."

The board of education and the recently held informal sessions to continue discussing negotiations, but those did not yield enough results, and the two parties are moving toward a fact-finding meeting July 26.

Resident Liz Lande said she believes the students are noticing the disillusionment from the teachers.

"I have seen a lot of teachers who have meant a lot to the children over the years, and it's been a very hard year for the kids because they have felt lots of cuts that have been the result of the animosity between the two parties," she said. "Summer is coming, and my hope is that we can do what is in the best interest of our town, of our community, of the people who live here and of the kids because this has been a trying year."

David Weth, a math teacher at the high school, said he does not believe the board is negotiating in good faith, and that that is hindering the creation of a settlement.

"From the start of the process, the most obvious process was delay and deception," he said. "I am confident the negotiations team has figured out more ways to cheat us over the summer. They spend money on everything other than teachers."

And, Weth said, he believes that deception is carrying over to how the taxpayers are being treated.

"It is your duty to inform the taxpayers and not deceive," he said. "But how much are the B-REA members paying back over the length of the new contract?"

"Why do you feel the need to deceive by failing to say how much money we are giving back through the contract?" he added.

Stephanie Wilkins, of Bond Street, said she understands the tough decisions the board has to make and the need to be mindful of the demands of the economy. But, she said, that doesn't explain the raises for administrators.

"While the board of education says it must be similarly mindful of the economy of the community members, you lost all credibility the moment you opened contracts early to give generous raises to administrators," she said.

Wilkins, who has two kids in the district and two who have graduated, said she also feels the pride in the achievements of the district—but if things don't change, those accolades may not be forthcoming again.

"We are proud that the Bridgewater-Raritan High School received recognition," she said. "But you need to understand that it's not for this year, it's for last year and it's based on the class of 2011 during their high school tenure."

"This was well before the turmoil in the district," she added. "But history will not repeat itself with the class of 2015 is this stalemate continues."

And some residents said they find it "insulting and appalling" that a settlement has not yet been reached, after more than a year of negotiations. They said they, as taxpayers, will look out for the teachers, and will communicate their disappointment that a settlement has not been reached.

Now, said B-REA president Steve Beatty, the union has gone 18 months with protracted negotiations and no contract.

"We said from the beginning we need to sit down and talk face to face without the expensive third party negotiators, but that didn't happen," he said. "We traded ridiculous proposals for a while, and got nowhere."

Beatty said they all breathed a sigh of relief when they reopened informal talks recently, but those did not yield a contract either, and now the union and board of education are at a crossroads again.

"It seems the plan we had put in place has not panned out as we had expected, much to our chagrin," he said. "That leads to our current level of frustration and disappointment. It boggles my mind that it's come to this, and it never should have."

Concerned Citizen June 19, 2012 at 03:52 PM
And you are correct as well!
Barry July 07, 2012 at 06:09 AM
It's the Teachers who have to settle. The Union has not been entirely truthful throughout. Instead of spinning and posturing, they should have been negotiating. What I find abysmal, is that nearly 85% of the entire school budget goes towards Union items - be they benefits, pay, etc... In no way, should that ratio be that high. If all the teachers want, is respect, then why are we even here? It's not just respect, they want money and benefits. The Teachers need to stop using our children as their personal shields to promote their increased salaries and benefits. The Teachers need to stop using our property values to promote their agenda - because it will only lead to higher property taxes. At some point, when the taxes burden is too high, property values will decrease but by then, the damage will have been done. The residents will be STUCK with higher wages, higher benefits payments and higher pension payouts. Even then, teachers will still want more and more and more. If I'm not getting raises - why should you?
Concerned Citizen July 07, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Barry it takes all kinds to make the world go round including ignorant people who have no clue what they are talking about. The teachers team has set forth numerous proposals all of which include pay cuts - not raises. It's been said over and over again - teachers are giving back millions a year and the boe is NOT using the savings to lower taxes. They never will. They will continue to pour the savings - teacher funded savings - down the drain, buying text books, hiring 'consultants', giving the top tier huge raises - anything other than reward teachers for creating an award winning district. Maybe you don't get raises because you don't do a good enough job to earn them. Why don't you drive your Mercedes over to a wealthier district and see what your tax bill looks like there? Honestly, it's this ignorant attitude of "if I can't get more neither can you: that's going to crush brrsd.
Barry July 08, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I'm ignorant, eh? Well - let's just see who is the ignorant one. And we'll work strictly with the public info - no partial truths, no inuendo, no hearsay. Just what's available publicly. Fair? Tell us, what was the latest PUBLIC figures issued by the BOE, and then, the BREA? And then tell us, what the average for the State is. And then tell us that the BREA is being reasonable. Last Spring, the BOE and BREA were negotiating face to face - no? And then, the topic moved to HS teachers (from my understanding, only HS teachers are involved with this issue) having more than 200 minutes face time with students (which by the way, is the least amount in the entire Somerset County) The BREA left the table claiming an impasse. This ploy ultimately led to a 6+ month hiatus. That was a unilateral play on the part of the BREA - so let's talk about delay tactics. Don't be a hypocrite. From day one, the BREA has indicated that they would move from the private plan to the State plan but ONLY when their raises were beyond the standard and that their short day for HS Teachers would remain in tact. This switch saves the District, quite a bit of money on a monthly basis. I don't believe that any one denies that aspect. And, as a Concerned Bridgewater Citizen, you would welcome such good news. Accordingly, there may be some issues. The Admin is willing to help resolve them. Often, I hear and read that the BOE is lying. I have yet to see or hear of a valid example.
Barry July 08, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Concerned Citizen - let's not play with funny accounting practices - but real numbers. Again, tell us the latest PUBLIC offer from the BOE and the BREA. And then tell us what the State average figures are. The last contract was generous. The current economy sucks right now - whether you care to admit to the facts or not. The majority of the tax payers, simply can not afford to pay higher and higher taxes. It's as simple as that. If you want to donate money to the Board of Ed to cover these additional expenses, by all means - do so with my thanks. However, stop forcing me and others to pay for your agenda. Again, the total budget pays nearly 80% towards Union items. That ratio is way too high. Throwing money at an issue is not the way to solve issues. Very few people are getting raises these days. You insult tax payers who are on fixed incomes. You are being selfish and it's time for the Union to come to terms with reality.

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