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No Joy Yet On Teacher Contracts In Ridgewood

Ridgewood Board of Education President Sheila Brogan.
Ridgewood Board of Education President Sheila Brogan. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — After 10 hours in a room together Tuesday night, the Ridgewood Board of Education and Ridgewood Education Association still have not agreed on a teacher contract, according to a statement the board emailed to residents.

“Although progress was made, settlement was not reached,” said the email, sent Wednesday.

Negotiations, which are now before a state-appointed super conciliator, have been at an impasse since July 2015.

The two sides will meet again 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12.

In its statement, the board noted it is committed to finalizing a contract that fairly compensates without jeopardizing the district’s “financial integrity.”

According to Laura Divina Grasso, negotiations chair for the union, the teachers made a counteroffer to the board in the 10th hour of negotiations.

“I believe, along with the Ridgewood Education Association negotiators, the 10 hours spent were worthy of our time,” she told Daily Voice.

“But as in the past, we’ve been in this position – actually the exact position and as close to a settlement – only to return to the table and have the door closed on us,” she added.

Nevertheless, teachers are hopeful the board will accept their counter proposal, Grasso said, adding that it’s time for the impasse to end and for the board “to see the bigger picture.”

“They can well afford our counter proposal without burdening the taxpayer or cutting programs and the other threats they’ve made,” she said.

While talks continue, teachers and support staff in the school district are being paid and receiving benefits under the terms and conditions of the expired contract, according to the board’s statement, which is signed by all five members, including President Sheila Brogan.

Also, the email noted, stipends stipulated in the old contract are being paid to staffers who advise clubs, sports, and performing arts extracurricular programs.

“However, please understand that at this time, teachers may refuse to take on club advisory responsibilities,” the statement said. “They also may refuse to volunteer in some activities that fall outside the contract.”

For instance, they may not chaperone overnight or after-school field trips.

The board recommends that parents and guardians of students observe strict drop-off and pick-up times for students because teachers and support staff may choose to keep to the contractual work day, which lasts seven-and-a-half hours.

The board gave the following times:

Elementary schools: drop-off not before 8:35 a.m.; pick-up 3 p.m.

Middle schools: drop-off not before 7:45 a.m.; pick-up 2:55 p.m.

High School: drop-off at 7:40 a.m.; pick-up 3:15 p.m.

In its statement, the board also noted that it is illegal in New Jersey for public employees, including teachers and secretaries, to go on strike.

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