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Has Your Child Been Affected by the Teacher Contract Dispute?

Ridgewood teachers trimming back on 'extra time' due to 18 months of stalled negotiations, salary freeze

[Editor's note: This report was last updated at 4:36 p.m. Wednesday to reflect comments from a parent who says her children have been caught in the crossfire.]

It's no secret there's – teachers and guidance counselors.

Both sides acknowledge the lack of a settled contract can be a distraction; . Educators were budgeted a zero percent increase this current budget year with increased givebacks in health benefits. It's the only way to make the budget work, officials said.

In a conversation with Patch at the Monday night protest, guidance counselor Michael Mullin said although educators are frustrated with the stalemate, they're trying to mitigate the impacts to the community.

"You still have a bunch of professionals that are handling the classroom instruction – that's their job and they're going to do it as best they can do," Mullin said. "Are there levels of frustration in dealing with the situation? Yeah, because they want to work to the best of their abilities but now the question becomes, 'how much extra time should we be giving?'"

A parent who has kids in elementary school and middle school said her children have felt the brunt of the contract dispute.

Both children – one classified with an IEP – requested math homework help but were turned away by their respective teachers, she said in an e-mail to Patch on the condition of anonymity.

The dispute has caused unfortunate confusion for her kids, said the Ridgewood resident, who added that she pays $20,000 in school taxes annually. 

"We LOVE their teachers but we are very frustrated that our children are paying the price – it's not their fault," she said.

Most of the educators historically have given "unlimited" extra time, according to the Mullin, though that's certainly changed this year. 

Other teachers, who declined to be identified, acknowledged they're cutting back on the time they give.

"I no longer stay until 4:30 helping students with homework everyday," said one high school teacher.

Clearly things have changed this year due to the frayed negotiations. If education is about the children, here's the question posed – how, if at all, has the dispute affected your child's education?

Take the poll and share your thoughts/observations in the comments.

Fan of Ridgewood March 23, 2012 at 01:28 PM
RHS Student - I dont think people here are hating teachers. You can disagree with the demands of a people without hating them. Also, your teachers are free to defend themselves in these postings. I suspect a couple of them, or at least their union representatives, are doing so. You are right that colleges are looking for sports and other extra-curricular activities. Keep them up, so long as you hit the books first (if you dont mind me saying so). And, lastly, whether we agree or disagree - bravo to you for intelligently speaking your mind on this very important issue.
Fan of Ridgewood March 23, 2012 at 01:35 PM
jp1 - Your post to RHS student was extremely rude and ridiculous ("how much do you pay in property taxes?") Come on! You owe the young person an apology. Anybody can get carried away, but adults admit when they're wrong. Be an adult and do it.
jp1 March 23, 2012 at 04:04 PM
RHS student seems to be quite capable on his own. My opinion is just that rude or ridiculous. Unless you are perfect i'am sure that you have stuck your own foot in your mouth.
Ridgewood Mom March 23, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Cute. I am mostly at home, but I work part time from home. If you must know, I work in the private sector. And to put it bluntly, I make a lot more then any Ridgewood teacher.
Ridgewood Mom March 23, 2012 at 06:48 PM
It is curious that people intent on cutting away at schools will so readily attack a teenager for pointing out the simple fact that their chopping antics have a genuinely negative impact on the quality of schools. Meanwhile, when you point out to these school cutters that what they are doing is indeed school cutting, they will go on and on about how they aren't really talking about cutting schools but are really about implementing ingenious master plans for restructuring and improving schools whilst simultaneously increasing their cost efficiency. People. Read RHS Student's lips! The quality of the schools is being damaged here. This means Ridgewood becoming a less desirable place to live in. This means lower property values. This means less tax intake. This means higher tax rates and more cuts to schools and other services. This is not a smart road to go down.
Ridgewood Mom March 23, 2012 at 06:57 PM
No Bill, The only people putting words in people's mouths here are Harlan Consider: "We just give them what they want?" And Rock: "whatever they ask for, whatever it may be, and whatever it costs" To be clear, I said: "Let's stop screwing with the teachers, people."
Joe March 23, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Well, Ridgewood Mom, it suddenly sounds like you are saying we should NOT pay teachers more or otherwise hold the line on their compensation package. Because as it is now, to give the teachers more of a raise means a guaranteed cut in school programs and, eventually, steps such as increasing class sizes. There is a cap on the total tax the schools can collect. If the teachers' contractual compensation (salary + benefits) forces the budget over the cap (which it has done every year since the cap was imposed) then the money to fulfill the contract is CUT from somewhere else in the budget. It's really very, very simple. I am absolutely concerned about the cuts to my child's education and the impact on the quality of our schools...that is precisely why I feel the district must hold the line and change the way our teachers are compensated. The current dynamic, "giving in" to their demands, leads ONLY to detrimental cuts.
Chris421 March 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Anyone who participates in teacher bashing , in my experience, is just jealous. Put some pressure on the school board- they are equally responsible for contract negotiations.
Fan of Ridgewood March 23, 2012 at 11:27 PM
RidgewoodMom - As noted in my post, i was referring to Hmwnr inference that anyone called teachers "ruthless" and "selfish". But you know that. You still haven't answered my question, just how are we, as you say, "screwing with the teachers"? I understand that there are a lot of teachers that would love to work in Ridgewood. Where's the depth to your post, which Rock rightly says is missing?
Fan of Ridgewood March 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Ridgewood Mom - it was one poster who was nasty to the RHS student (not "people"), several of us took him to task for it including me and he has admitted that he put his foot in his mouth. With all your statements, you never answered my earlier question on just how we're "screwing" the teachers. Regarding damaging the schools, a strong argument can be made that the teachers union is doing that. As they have throughout the country by fighting measures to have teachers be evaluated and held accountable for their performance. Nor has there been found to be a strong correlation between teacher's salaries and better education. Even teachers will tell you that strong parenting is the biggest deciding factor.
Fan of Ridgewood March 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Chris - who's bashing teachers? Can you point out in this entire blog where that's being done? It does seem that disagreeing with the teacher's union passes as bashing teachers for some posters here, but that's just not so.
RWD mom March 24, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Are you for real??????.... Read the posts... People are not bashing the union, they are COMPLETELY bashing the teachers themselves calling them greedy and everything else!!!! And you all can say, "Oh we are just showing a difference in opinion, not disrespect" ... but you are all on drugs. You are speaking out against the teachers' character, integrity, and more. You all don't realize how much damage your posts are doing. If you have a difference in opinion, you should simply state why you disagree without the name calling but you have all gone past that point and made it personal. I have to say the people supporting the teachers (and teachers we are out here, I promise so please, please continue the amazing work you are all doing!) are not bashing the BOE. We are simply supporting the teachers. And thank goodness some of us are because once the dust settles, these teachers will be teaching my children and I need to trust that they will continue to want to be a part of our community.
Fan of Ridgewood March 24, 2012 at 01:28 AM
RWD mom - please give me any direct quotes in this blog where anyone bashed a teacher. Please show me a quote where anyone called them, "greedy". After that we can determine who's for real. Conversely, i've asked Ridgewood Mom three times in this blog to explain her claim that we are "screwing with the teachers" but i haven't received a single answer. Either point to facts or stop trying to demonize people who dare to disagree with you.
RWD mom March 24, 2012 at 04:18 AM
@Bill- Forgive me..... I have been reading and posting on this article as well as the original article entitled, "Ridgewood Teachers Feel Lack of Respect". After reading almost 200 posts, I am mixing the two. So, yes, there have not been any terribly harmful statements related to this article. Many of the same people are posting comments on both articles but I see that you have not posted on the other article. Maybe, therefore, you are not aware of the personal attacks that have been made. However, if you read those posts, you will see why I am so upset. There is a lot of name calling on those other posts & it is very upsetting to me. I don't have a problem with people who disagree & actually upon rereading all of your posts, I see that while we are on opposite sides of the fence you have also been able to accept others having a difference in opinion. My biggest issue is that teachers are being personally attacked & all lumped into one category when they are all individuals. But, unfortunately, they are unionized & not able to speak on an individual basis. Everyone keeps saying our teachers make great money. The average salary is $80K. Yes, some of our teachers are doing quite well. But an average means that there are an equal number of teachers that make a lot less than $80K. When you are making $50K & have now lost 10% of that salary & may be losing even more, you have a right to be upset and concerned and should not be percieved as greedy & not worthy of respect.
Ridgewood Mom March 24, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Exactly RWD mom. There are some who seem only capable of understanding what any sort of worker does as alike a horse with a cart in need of a whip and a carrot. And with this way of thinking, it is not possible to understand the mindset of a student engaged in learning, or a person trying to assist others in that learning. Bill, I understand that you must not think so, but teachers are paid very badly for the level of qualifications that they have. They pretty much know, very early on in their career and in most cases probably well before they enter the teaching profession, that they could have been pursuing something that would pay them much better. But they make the decision to go into teaching anyway because they genuinely want to do something for others and are willing to make a sacrifice. I suspect that you don't believe this is possible - that they and everyone are only and can only really be about getting the biggest possible paycheck - but what really gets a teacher charged, and really doing a great job teaching students, is a sense of stability, recognition for their successes and respect for their sacrifice. When people suggest things like that a teacher who doesn't like the way they are being treated should just quit, it undermines all three of these fundamental motivations. It also falsely assumes that the particular contributions made by a particular teacher can be replaced simply by placing some other eager body there.
Ridgewood Mom March 24, 2012 at 05:19 AM
"Nor has there been found to be a strong correlation between teacher's salaries and better education. Even teachers will tell you that strong parenting is the biggest deciding factor." I'm not sure why you are contrasting teacher salaries with strong parenting. Perhaps you are meaning to weigh the importance of the role of of strong teaching with that of strong parenting. When things are working, it should seem obvious that it is not just the one or the other that works the magic, but a PARTNERSHIP of the two.
Matt March 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM
The teachers making $50k are the ones who have less than 5 years of experience and graduated with a Bachelors degree. I have a dozen friends that graduated from a prestigious university with a Bachelors degree and make at or less than $50k. In fact, I made less than $40k my first year out! So I have two points: 1) Actually responding to Ridgewood Mom, but claiming that teachers know going in that they'll be paid less than other fields, while it MAY be true, certainly isn't universally true. Many, many college graduates are finding that it takes a lot more to be successful than a degree and a good GPA. There are a lot more graduates than good paying jobs. 2) $50k out of a bachelors program isn't bad. In fact, I made under $40k in my first job, 50-60 hour weeks, 2 weeks vacation. I was happy to have a job in the field I wanted when many of my peers were unemployed. I budgeted like a fiend and was able to save money despite the mediocre pay. If I can do it on $40k while paying 30% for my healthcare, I think our teachers with Bachelors can as well. 60k for Masters, 70k for Doctorates. Look, I don't have a problem with budgeting in raises for teachers making under say $70, but $80k average is a great median salary. It is not enough to buy a big house in Ridgewood without another breadwinner, but over-inflated housing doesn't exactly benefit the residents of Ridgewood either.
Fan of Ridgewood March 24, 2012 at 12:31 PM
RWD mom, thank you for acknowledging your confusion. I was not at all aware of the other article. It's terrible when blogs degrade into personal attacks and rants as, sadly, they often do. Nothing positive can come of that. I think we both agree that the teacher's union is a hinderance here. I would be very frustrated if i was a superlative teacher and i was grouped with less dedicated ones.
Fan of Ridgewood March 24, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Ridgewood Mom - I know a bit more than you think i do about teachers. I am a volunteer teacher for the Bergen County Adult Iliteracy Program. I am paid nothing. Also, i am in a lot of community theater where 75% of the other members are teachers. Teachers, in my experience, are a mixed bag. Some are very dedicated, some are just picking up a paycheck. Most people want personal satisfaction in a job, along with a paycheck. Not just teachers. As i said in my very first post, i like teachers, but they are not saints or missionaries. I love what i do, however after experiencing several layoffs and some bad management here and there, i dont yell, "unfair" i keep my skills and my resume up to date. BTW, when my daughters graduated from Hawes, my wife and i sent a letter to the principal, Dr. Semindinger, acknowledging and thanking him for the fine education our girls received there. I understand the value of acknowledging a job well done, although it cant always be done with money.
Jack Nies March 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I don't think it should be assumed that a teacher needs to earn enough on one salary to buy a house in RIdgewood. That would be unrealistic. I would hope that no public employee would make enough on one salary to do that. If they do, they are overpaid.
Ridgewood Mom March 25, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Really Jack? No public employee at all, no matter their qualifications, contributions or how hard they work ought to be able to buy a house in Ridgewood on their salary? Not only teachers but any public employee? It is safe to assume that you believe that some sort of private sector worker ought to be able to earn enough to buy a house in Ridgewood, or else no one would be able to buy a house in Ridgewood. So you feel, then, that people who work in the private sector, at least some special elite group of them, are necessarily more deserving of higher salaries than all public employees whatsoever? Where does that leave our view of Ridgewood's teachers then? Not as people who ought to be accepted as members of Ridgewood's private sector earning elite community, but lesser paid servants perhaps? Hmmm... not a lot of respect there.
Jack Nies March 25, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Other than sr mgmt, it should be unlikely that a public employee would be able to buy a house on one salary in this town. Sorry if it sounds cold, but this *is* an expensive town and there is no mandate that town employees need to live here on one salary. If that was the case (and it seems to becoming that way given the high average cost of public employees in this town), then taxes will increase to a point so high that nobody, even teachers :), will be able to afford to live here. the public sector, while necessary, should be minimized. it sucks the life blood out of the tax paying public, does not contribute tax revenue to the town (only increases the tax burden), and will, if it gets too large, overwhelm and drive out private enterprise and residents. due to the high cost of living primarily due to the high tax burden in this area, my employer, along with thousands of others in the nyc area, are moving jobs offshore and to other parts of the country where the unions are not so ravenous (exactly why the auto sector is moving out of the midwest the southeast). i've said it before, you didn't go into teaching to get rich. the cost of homes in ridgewood, being one of the more expensive towns in the area, should not benchmark what your salary should be. best of luck, nies
Ridgewood Mom March 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Can you agree then that your views are not simply motivated by localized disagreements about the importance or non-importance of school and teaching but with the much broader topic of public sector employees in general, which can be extended to the national level, and a generalized economic philosophy about free markets and the role of taxes? I assume you live in Ridgewood Jack. Have you considered moving to a town with lower taxes and putting your children (if you have any) in private school? I'm not asking this to be snappy, or to suggest that you should go anywhere. I am asking because I wonder if you have compared what you are getting in Ridgewood for what you paying in relation to what you would be getting elsewhere. Do you not feel that you are getting a good value in Ridgewood or, again, is it more that you don't like the general philosophical idea of paying taxes that provide collective services within a community at all?
Matt March 25, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Just to clarify Jack's comment a bit, I don't think either of us are saying that teachers shouldn't be able to afford to live or own a house in Ridgewood. But it is a reality in many of the desirable parts of this country that unless you have inherited wealth, you just can't afford to buy a house on one income. Most private sector employees in this country can't afford a house in Ridgewood on one income either. I would argue that our downtown is losing businesses faster than they can be replaced in part because property taxes are driving rents beyond what is economically feasible.
Matt March 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM
There are towns in Bergen County with excellent schools and much lower taxes than Ridgewood. I would know having grown up in one. I got a phenomenal education, my teachers were talented and committed to helping students succeed. My academically inclined peers went to prestigious colleges and are embarking on successful careers. Teachers in the town I grew up in made less, and continue to make less than Ridgewood teachers.
Ridgewood Mom March 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Matt, if you look deeper into it you will find that teacher salaries are roughly similar across most of Bergen county, with some teachers in other Bergen county towns making less then some teachers in Ridgewood and some making more. Ten years ago, along with most of the rest of Bergen county, they were, indeed, amongst the highest in the NYC metro area, but their edge is declining significantly these days in proportion to other metro public and private school salaries. Tax rates are lower in places such as Alpine and Saddle River because average home values are higher and the amount of tax paid on a higher valued home with a lower tax rate still brings in plenty of revenue. Many in very high income brackets opt for living in such places (Franklin Lakes, Manhattan, similar affluent towns in Westchester, Nassau county, Fairfield county) and putting their kids in private schools, rather then excellent public schools such as we have in Ridgewood, precisely because property taxes are so high for persons with homes assessed highly enough to rival the 40K per child tuition that it takes to send a your kids to a NYC area private school. Most people in Ridgewood do not pay anywhere near that much in taxes, and we do have public schools here that rival the most elite and expensive private institutions in the region. Many who live in Ridgewood and have very highly assessed homes do so because they prefer Ridgewood's great public schools and related communal setting.
Ridgewood Mom March 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM
(cont'd) In most of Bergen county home values are lower, on average, then they are in Ridgewood and many of those towns recoup the difference by having higher tax rates then Ridgewood has. Others do so by putting less into services, and having lesser services to show for it, including schools. Ridgewood's tax rate is not high for Bergen county and is very low compared to towns with great public schools in Essex, Westchester, Nassau. Ridgewood's schools, however, go alongside the very tops for Bergen county and the NYC metro area by almost every measure. They are not in the middle.
Matt March 25, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Ridgewood Mom, I'm taking all of that into account. In the town I grew up in, teacher salaries are definitively lower, assessed house values are definitively lower, and the effective tax rate is absolutely lower. My point is I got an education that was by all accounts similar to Ridgewood students got, and it cost a lot less. My teachers made less, continue to make less, and still put the time and effort into the educational process. My district sends many students to the top colleges, without the hefty price tag. I question whether we are actually getting a better education in Ridgewood by paying more. I certainly question whether we are getting more or better services for our higher taxes.
Jack Nies March 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I believe I read that the Ridgewood school budget has increased from about $60m per year 10 yrs ago to $90m today (50% increase in 10 years). That is insane, and the root of our high taxes in RIdgewood. Taxes were relatively high when I moved here 10 years ago but manageable. Now they are getting unbearable. The cost base must be managed better. We cannot simply keep giving raises and benefits increases because everybody thinks they deserve them. It simply does not happen in the private sector. If the schools were a profit making business, it would be fine to keep increasing costs if revenues were increasing at a higher rate. There is simply no justification for comp to have increases so much over the last 10 yrs other than the fact that there was not enough tough negotiating done pre the recession, when people didn't really look that closely at the taxes they are paying. I moved to Ridgewood because of the total package: good schools, walkable, good downtown, etc. I knew taxes were "high" but they weren't that bad considering what you are getting. I'm questioning that now. We get less services because the high comp is now crowding out staff (i.e. the town and schools have had to lay off people even while the taxes have increased 50%) and I don't see the end of service reductions.
Jack Nies March 25, 2012 at 02:59 PM
(continued) my taxes are $18k plus per year versus $14k when i moved into my current house 5 yrs ago. that stat alone is disgusting. look at that increase. taxes surely must be contained. they cannot keep going up like that. as a point of comparison, i own a piece of property in another nearby state with decent schools etc, and taxes were about $2800 when i bought the property 10 yrs ago and are now $3500. $3500! the home is worth about half of our house in ridgewood. the only significant difference in service is we have to pay for garbage removal at the other property for $35/mth. something is seriously wrong in ridgewood and in nj in general.

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