GREA pushes for a better contract


The Glen Rock Education Association and Board of Education contract agreement cover page notes the June 30, 2018 expiration date. Since then, the parties have not established a successor contract.

by Kate Casey, Editor-in-Chief

The Glen Rock Education Association and the Glen Rock Board of Education are still negotiating to create a successor agreement to their contract that expired in June.

This contract, called a “collective bargaining agreement,” contains guidelines on salaries, working hours, and health benefits. It applies to members of the Glen Rock Education Association (GREA), including teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, custodial staff, and other many other employees of the Glen Rock School District. This agreement was expected to cover from July 2015 to June of 2018.

The GREA and BOE began negotiating their successor agreement in February 2018, in hopes that the contract would be finalized prior to the expiration date in June. After ten months, there is still no contract.

GREA representatives arrived to the first negotiation meeting in February with several stipulations for the successor contract, including an increase in salary and health benefits.

The BOE explained that health benefit prices are increasing so it is necessary to limit expenses in the successor contract. Because the majority of their budget comes from local taxes, they are responsible for representing all citizens of Glen Rock. Any increase in their budget will impact taxes, so residents who do not use the public schools may not support a tax raise.

In addition, Governor Chris Christie enacted a two percent tax levy cap in 2010. This law states that local governments cannot increase taxes by more than two percent per year. It includes certain exemptions– including health care, pensions, and increased school enrollment, and emergency situations. Towns are also permitted to exceed the cap with local referendum.

BOE Vice President, Sharon Scarpelli, explained that although the Board values the district’s teachers, they have to consider the effects of increasing salary and benefits.

“We feel that our number one asset in the district is our teachers. They are on the front lines, they are in the classrooms. We know that without them the district wouldn’t be what it is,” Scarpelli said. “But any increase to our budget will be from taxpayer-funded money.”

During negotiations, both the BOE and the GREA had their own negotiation committee and lawyers. After six sessions, the GREA declared an impasse. They felt that the negotiations were not progressing adequately and that they needed a mediator to continue.

The first mediation session occurred on July 31. The BOE explained in their public statement that they felt “significant progress was made” and that “it is anticipated that they will reach an agreement in the very near future.”

The details of these meetings are confidential, but the BOE did release a public statement summarizing the events.

William Crispino, Glen Rock High School teacher, is one of many GREA members that expressly advocates for a contract that is more beneficial to the district staff. He recently announced that he will be leaving Glen Rock. He accepted an offer to teach at another district that would help him financially and give him more time to spend with his family.

“We’ve made great accomplishments, as far as rankings and awards, which I think everybody is extremely proud of,” he said. “We have a great thing and we want that to continue, we don’t want to lose it, but we have families too that we have to support.”

New Jersey Monthly named Glen Rock the second high school in the state and United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized Glen Rock as one of 349 National Blue Ribbon Schools in the country.

The GREA believes that the work that went into obtaining these honors necessitates comparable compensation.

Until a successor contract is established, the terms under previous agreement remain. The GREA will receive the same salary and health benefits and are expected to work the hours listed in the agreement.

There have been no changes in salary changes, so all teachers are receiving the same compensation as they were in 2015, despite their increased experience and loyalty to the district.

The contract dispute not only affects the GREA, but students too.

The GREA organized several strategies to raise awareness for this issue. The contract mandates that they be in school from 7:40 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., but in the past, these teachers are known to stay later for meetings and extra-help. Teachers are now arriving and leaving promptly at the required hours to show the community how much extra they do for students.

“It’s just to show how much teachers work beyond our responsibilities in the contract. We want people to be aware of how much dedication, time, and effort the teachers here put into this district,” Crispino said.

Because teachers leave the building only a half hour after dismissal, students do not have the opportunity to ask for extra-help as they have in previous years.

Ally Zamparelli is a seventh-grade student at Glen Rock Middle School. These demonstrations prevent her and other students from receiving constructive one-on-one time with teachers.

“When I have a big test coming up, I want to go see a teacher, but I feel rushed when I do. There are always so many people going for help in so little time. I feel like I am not being provided with the help I need to be,” Zamparelli said.

The GREA is also not participating in several student events, including Student-Teacher Day.

Student-Teacher Day is a Glen Rock tradition where seniors dress up as their favorite teachers and lead their classes. Seniors are asked to get written consent from the teacher and meet with them to organize lessons, games, and other fun activities.

Because the GREA collectively decided that they will not participate, Student-Teacher Day will not take place this year. They hope that this will show the community that they are constantly working outside of the contract to make the school an enjoyable place for students.

Max Lindley is one of many seniors that feels that they lost one of the most memorable parts of senior year.

“I remember being a freshman going from class to class and doing Kahoots seniors made about our teachers. It was something I always looked forward to,” Lindley said. “There’s so many things, academically and just for fun, that teachers do for us. People don’t really get that this is hurting the students too.”

The GREA and BOE are continuing with mediation and hope to finalize a successor contract soon.

“The Board is really hopeful and wants the contract to be resolved as soon as possible,” Scarpelli said. “We are working very hard to make a fair contract for both sides.”