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Teachers Feeling Stressed, Disrespected

Residents speak out about the state of negotiations.

With issues still looming—and the board of education and preparing to move toward fact finding—several people spoke out at Tuesday's board of education meeting about the ill will they see being directed toward the teachers.

"The staff is the best, and they rose to the occasion and showed up every day to foster learning potentials," said Terri Yessman, a parent of three children in the district. "They've remained loyal to the children and to the district, and for that I'm thankful."

"With that said, where is your loyalty?" she asked the board of education.

Those who spoke emphasized that cuts have caused a lot of additional stress for teachers dealing with larger classrooms, less materials and more. But, they said, they have continued to work hard for the children.

"It has now become a juggling act, which is not good," said second grade teacher Kelly Hadfield. "This has spread us thin, and has pulled us in so many different directions."

Yessman said she remembers listening to the talks about the initial budget cuts about three years ago, and sat through a session about how the district would handle its financial issues.

"Monumental cuts were made, and demands on the Bridgewater staff increased exponentially," she said. "The staff has been busting their backsides."

But with a contract that expired in June 2011, negotiations began mediation in December, and have now declared that they will start fact finding after a decision concerning salary, health benefits and time working could not be agreed upon.

"Please take a second to reflect on what is fair and equitable," Yessman said. "You have the ability to go back to the table."

"My children are who they are because they spend seven hours a day with these teachers," she added.

Hadfield, who said she has wanted to be a teacher since she was 7 years old, said she knows that in Van Holten, there are already teachers working on the day's activities at 7 a.m., and many are still planning for the next day at 6 p.m.

"Preps are being used to the fullest, and lunches are being used for work," she said. "We bring stacks of papers home."

But now, Hadfield said, with up to 25 students crammed into classrooms that are not comfortable enough to fit them, there are growing needs from the students, and some of this is making the teaching less effective.

"I never thought as a teacher, I would have to put up with so much disrespect from people who claim to have thought of the students first," she said.

And, Hadfield said, she recognizes that she has never seen members of the school board actually in the schools.

"In the six years I have been in the district, I don't believe I have seen one of you wandering the hallways, popping into classrooms, and being interested in the great things happening in the schools," she said. "The board needs to realize how lucky you are to have schools filled with such dedicated educators."

A 2007 graduate also spoke before the board, saying how much time he believes the teachers have put toward working with the students.

"I see how much time and effort they put into educating the children," he said. "I think they're undervalued and underappreciated, and I think this needs to be taken into consideration. The climate they're under is unfair."

But now, as negotiations continue, Hadfield said, she hopes the board of education gets involved to really see how teachers work, and that that could move the process forward.

"You need to start becoming part of the education process, instead of making decisions and judgments from the sidelines," she said. "Open your minds to the fact that we both want the same thing. We want a district filled with confident, happy students."

Mike April 11, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Supervisors, assistant principals, principals, counselors, speech therapists, OTs, and central office personnel - right up to the superintendent - should be REQUIRED teach at LEAST one hour a week in a substitute capacity. BoE members should be REQUIRED to get their substitute certificates (requirements: background check, tuberculosis test, and 60 liberal arts credits) and teach at LEAST one day a year, plus walk-throughs (and should want to do more than that). And not just the poster-child classes - let 'em have the most difficult classes with behavior problems, IEP kids with no in-class support, non-Engish speakers, etc.. This should be required nationwide. By the way, nothing ANY voter from doing this. Stop getting all your info from NJ 101.5FM and see for yourself.
Bwater Parent April 12, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Miss Hadfield is one of the best teachers this district has. Just saying.
Bparent April 12, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Mrs. Laine and Ms. Leone at Van Holten are two wonderful teachers that go home and continue to think and care about thier students. They care. It's not only what they do from 9-3 but the fact that they go above and beyond for our kids. Wonderful Teachers! Amazing school! Parent
Linda F April 12, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Part of the problem is that Bridgewater District has changed leaps and bounds. I went here as a kid and was thrilled for my daughter to do the same but little by little I am disappointed. They seem to forget without allowing these teachers to give our kids what they have their futures will be more difficult. Maybe our teachers should log their hours even for 1 week to show what is being put into just 1 week. GOOD LUCK TEACHERS I AM ROOTING FOR YOU
Jenwer101 April 12, 2012 at 11:35 AM
I went there from second grade all the way till I graduated. I even stayed in high school two extra years and was looming forward to having my kids attend school in bridgewater but now that both my kids attend school in Springfield NJ and I here about all the isues bridgewater raritan schools are dealing with I'm glad my two don't go to any of there schools.
Lauralee Davis April 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Regardless of whether you revile the teachers or hold them sacrosanct, the fact remains that Bridgewater is full of Middleclass families. Families that are now operating on less money. Two family incomes down to one, one family incomes down to 0. It's not about people thinking teachers "aren't worth it" and more about the fact that they just do not have the money to spend. Prices are higher for everything, raises are little or nonexistent. Where are we supposed to dig out this extra money from? In this day, no one is deserving of an automatic raise, especially people depending on the middle class to up the anti. Many of us are treading water, some of us are going under. People talk about this like we just don't think the teachers are worth it. That's wrong. We Don't Have The Money. Plain and simple. So rather than bemoan the fact that you aren't getting a raise, how about being happy to have a job? Yes, getting a raise is nice, having an actual job is nice too. The thinking needs to turn around here, at least until the economy turns around and "the common people" are working and getting raises themselves again.
BR Parent April 12, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Hey Ms. Hadfield, Its not surprise that you wanted to be a teacher since you were seven! My son had a wonderful experience in your class. You are an example of what is best in this district.
Karss April 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Ms. Hadfield needs to understand that board members are actually not supposed to be wandering the schools/popping into classrooms. They operate under the NJ School Board Member Code of Ethics - and unless in an active board of ed session, they are no different than other community members in their town. And no, I'm not a board member. I'm a community member & educator, laid off 3 years ago during the initial budget cuts in the state. I understand where the teachers are coming from, having been there myself, but with districts still cash-strapped and new policies in place, something has to give. It's not going to be perfect.
Bridgewater Parent April 12, 2012 at 05:44 PM
It's unfair to say that the BOE members are not in the schools and are not aware of what goes on in the schools. I have personally seen Dr. Schilder, Cindy Cullen, Pat Breslin, Jeffrey Brookner, Jill Gladstone, Lynne Hurley and Arvind Mathur in the schools. I'm sure the others are in the schools as well. BOE members have children in the school district and are very involved parents who do really care about our school district. They hold a VOLUNTEER position and are trying to do the best job that they can. They do not get paid to be on the BOE. If the BOE caves in to the demands of the union, the taxpayers will be screaming and yelling when their taxes go up to pay for what the union is asking for. I support the wonderful teachers in our district as well. They are awesome!
BucaBuddy99 April 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Lauralee has it right here. We have to remove the emotion from these discussions as we all feel teachers deserve to be compensated for their efforts. Equally, for every great example of a teacher, I can point to another who is really just going through the motions moving closer to retirement. At the end of the day, we are earning a living, paying for most extracurricular activities for our children and frequently additional training for sports or academics just to keep up with others in the community. Our town is a micro view of our larger macro economy. We don't have a revenue problem (both locally and nationally), we have a spending problem. I think back to the first Mayor Bloomberg administration when the firefighters union was threatening to strike as the Mayor proposed closing stations. Mayor Bloomberg called the leadership into his office, laid out the budget and asked them to make the hard decision of laying off police, ambulance workers, teachers, sanitation employees and other city workers to find the money to keep the fire stations. With no ability to do so, the fire department agreed to the terms. The result is they grew stronger as the economy picked up and many of those fire stations were reopened later. Our leadership and our town have to realize that we are not an unending source of revenue. Come to terms but both parties need to be willing to do so jointly and with a smile.
Mike April 12, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Lest you forget, not even two years ago, BRRSD had to FIRE ~75 teachers (in addition to the ~80 custodians, which got a lot more publicity), some of whom are your neighbors. And those ~75 weren't the bottom of the barrel. They generally had the least seniority, or, in some cases, were part of entire programs that were annihilated (e.g., foreign language in K-5). So teachers do get laid off. Just like common folk. And teachers' spouses get reduced hours and laid off. Just like common folk. And teachers pay [property] taxes. Just like common folk. And teachers are just as happy to be employed as you are to be fortunate enough to live in B-R and have your kids (if any) have the right to attend its schools. I just hope your voice is just as loud when the economy does get better. And I believe the issue is more about lack of contract than it is about money. You can read the opinions/positions of the Board of Ed and the Union here on patch.
Jason Schiff April 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Dr. Schilder's position is not voluntary. He is the highest paid district employee earning around (if not over) $200,000/year.
Jason Schiff April 12, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I agree with Mike on this one. I hope that the same people using the economy as a means to argue that teachers should not receive proper raises (albeit a good reason) speak up when the economy bounces back.
Jason Schiff April 12, 2012 at 09:51 PM
BucaBuddy - You believe that 50% of all teachers are "going through the motions?" That's a huge number...
Mike April 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Supervisors, assistant principals, principals, counselors, speech therapists, OTs, and central office personnel - right up to the superintendent - should be REQUIRED teach at LEAST one hour a week in a substitute capacity. BoE members should be REQUIRED to get their substitute certificates (requirements: background check, tuberculosis test, and 60 liberal arts credits) and teach at LEAST one day a year, plus walk-throughs (and should want to do more than that). And not just the poster-child classes - let 'em have the most difficult classes with behavior problems, IEP kids with no in-class support, non-Engish speakers, etc.. This should be required nationwide. By the way, nothing ANY voter from doing this. Stop getting all your info from NJ 101.5FM and see for yourself.
Bridgewater Parent April 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Yes Dr. Shilder is the Superintendent of the schools which is of course a paid position. But the 9 elected BOE members volunteer and are not paid.
B-R resident/parent April 14, 2012 at 01:39 AM
What makes the BOE members qualified just because they volunteer?. I volunteer on certain committees within my school. Actually, my experience and education make me somewhat qualified to bring my 2 cents to the table. Why do I do it? I love kids and I want to use my knowledge to help other teachers and, in turn, kids. I am sure the BOE has similar motives, but they really do not have ANY knowledge/experience. When Barbara Kane tried to run for the BOE, what happened? The public does not seem to want an EDUCATOR to be on the board. Since Barbara left, we purchased HSP math and now we are purchasing ANOTHER math program!!! We need BOE members who will endorse wise purchasing. We have also purchased CA programs that were in infancy stages. Why would we not wait to see what other districts thought of these programs before we frivolously spent the taxpayers’ dollars? It is antiquated to think that we can continue to have a BOE with no educator representation. Yes, we need the "Lynn Hurleys", who are smart and fair. But "Lynn" needs at least a couple of educators to give her perspective. Let the general public have command, but without the "Barbara Kanes", we will continue on this path. The BOE needs to recognize that the supervisory positions have become a revolving door. How about letting some experienced educators become part of the BOE? Just a thought.

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