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Regional Teachers Express Ire Over Lack of Progress in Negotiations

April 2 fact finding mission scheduled; sides have 'made no progress' according to negotiator.

Teachers filled the West Morris Central High School library on Monday, March 17.
Teachers filled the West Morris Central High School library on Monday, March 17.

While the theme seems to be silence, members of the West Morris Regional High School Teacher’s Association made themselves loud and clear to the board of education.

Nearly a full school year without an updated contract to go along with negotiations that have not moved as fast as the association would like led to a full house Monday night at the board’s regular meeting.

Contract talks between the board and association began in 2013, but the negotiation committee – made up of Chester Borough’s Don Storms, then-board president and Chester Township representative James Johnston, and Washington Township’s Joe Galayda – pushed the discussions straight to mediation, bringing in a third-party to oversee the situation.

Now, months later, talks have gone nowhere, according to association lead negotiator Mike Goffredo. When asked how far apart the two sides are, Goffredo said, “We’re nowhere. We’ve made no progress, and now they need to bring in a fact finder.”

A fact-finding meeting has been established as a result of the impasse, and is scheduled for Wednesday, April 2. The current negotiations committee is made of Galayda, Storms, Mendham Township’s Jamie Button, and first-year regional board member and current president Gary Lakritz from Chester Township.

Lakritz said he had met with Goffredo recently to discuss the process, and both negotiations committees sat down in March to have further dialogue about the fact finding process. 

Clad with red buttons that read “Settle Now,” teachers from both schools took to the podium during public comment to share their feelings with the board make their opinions known.

Science teacher Rob Maier explained why he decided to leave the Randolph School District to come to West Morris Central, and that it was a “compassionate district that supports teachers,” he said.

Maier said his experience at Randolph, which lasted more than a decade, was a messy one.

“When it gets messy, it takes focus off the kids and the work we do,” he said. “When it gets messy, there’s buzz in the school and people get bummed out. When it gets too messy, you lose talented teachers.

"Please support us," Maier said.

The current contract stalemate comes after the district went two years without an updated accord before settling in June of 2011. That contract spanned four years, two of which were retroactive to 2009-10 and 2010-11. The contract ended at the conclusion of the 2013 school year.

West Morris Mendham science teacher Michael Scoblete took a different approach during his comment, using silence as strength.

Scobleti planned to stand in silence for his allotted five-minute opportunity, but only made it three minutes and 23 seconds before being interrupted.

Button stood up and walked over to Mendham Borough representative Brian Cavanaugh to have a quiet discussion, to which Scobleti quickly pounced, “Are we boring you, Mr. Button?

“That was silence for three minutes and 23 seconds, which is nothing compared to the silence we’ve heard for the past year,” Scobleti said. “We’ve got five hours worth of people here. Did you bring your sleeping bags? Get it done.”

Scobleti, like all the night’s speakers, was met with applause from his colleagues after leaving the podium.

Mendham’s Francis Gavin, who also serves as the West Morris Central girls basketball coach, shared his experience as a teacher and school board member in his own town to paint the picture of what should get done.

Gavin said not only does he serve on his own board, but is also part of the negotiations committee, and noted the differences between highly performing boards and those that are not.

“Highly performing boards of education communicate well, represent the entire district, and have a dialogue with the community,” Gavin said. “This board has come to the table and not done what it’s supposed to do. It hasn’t even come to the table with a goal.

“That is a sign of a highly dysfunctional board. So decide if you want to be dysfunctional board or a highly performing board so real, true negotiations can occur.”

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 28 at West Morris Mendham High School. 

Editor's note: The original version of this article did not state recent meetings held by board and teacher's association members.

Roll Back Our Tax March 21, 2014 at 07:56 AM
Current salaries.... http://php.app.com/edstaff/results2.php?county=MORRIS&district=Mendham+Township+Board+of+Education&school=%25&lname=&fname=&job1=%25&tfm_order=DESC&tfm_orderby=SALARY .... http://php.app.com/edstaff/results2.php?pageNum_Recordset1=0&totalRows_Recordset1=70&county=MORRIS&district=MENDHAM+BOROUGH&school=%25&lname=&fname=&job1=%25&tfm_order=DESC&tfm_orderby=SALARY .....Current retirees .... http://php.app.com/retireNJ/results.php?lastn=&firstn=&location=MENDHAM+BORO+BD+OF+ED&FundName=%25&retireyr=%25&tfm_order=DESC&tfm_orderby=finalsalary ..... http://php.app.com/retireNJ/results.php?lastn=&firstn=&location=MENDHAM+TOWNSHIP+BD+OF+ED&FundName=%25&retireyr=%25&tfm_order=DESC&tfm_orderby=finalsalary
stephaniedunshee March 22, 2014 at 07:48 AM
Thank you for the Links. I had no idea and I do think they are worth clinking on to get grounded in the individual salaries and pensions of those involved. Glad for this transparency. As I consider both sides of this argument, these facts were helpful to me. Could you please post the links for Chester Borough and Township too?
BHorseBarStool March 22, 2014 at 11:34 AM
Great link on salaries....folks look closely....lots and lots of six figure salaries at our High Schools...and how many classes are the teaching 3, 4, 5....some 0 (the AD at $165,000+++)...SIGN ME UP...it is a free market out there unless your bullied by the union (those days should have been long gone...merit in the 21st century)
Redpony459 March 23, 2014 at 05:32 PM
You have some ignorant people living in your community. I guess that's why the ethically challenged, loud mouthed bully of a governor chooses to live among you. All your chatter about your teachers is misguided. From what I understand, you live in one of the highest achieving school districts in the state and the country. I think your teachers demonstrate extraordinary merit. It seems that your bitterness toward them has more to do with your own shabby working conditions. The only whining I hear is yours. In your "Real World" you have chosen to be powerless as an individual. Your teachers, on the other hand, have chosen to bargain collectively. Now you whine about not having the same power or benefits. Why don't you join a union rather than Demanding that others race to the bottom alongside you.

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