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No Contract, No Basketball: RW Teachers Skip Charity Game

Teachers not playing charity Wizards game on Jan. 27 due to contract dispute; administrators taking their place

Parents have been abuzz with the rumor that teachers have elected not to participate in the annual Faculty charity basketball game due to the ongoing contract dispute with the school district.

Superintendent of Schools Daniel Fishbein confirmed Monday night that the unionized teachers will not be playing on Friday, Jan. 27 at the annual charity game as they do every year.

Fishbein declined to offer further comment, but said he and other administrators would be playing at the high school gym in lieu of the Ridgewood Education Association (REA) members. [Update 12:10 p.m. Tuesday – parents will also be playing in the game.]

Proceeds from ticket sales will be going to village students this year, Fishbein said. The Federated HSA runs the annual, highly-anticipated event.

Students look forward for much of the school year to the humorous game with the world-famous Wizards – they don't often see their teachers donning high socks and being dunked on.

According to a letter sent to the HSA Presidents, the decision to opt out was a "difficult one" for teachers.

Dear Federated Home and School Association,

I am writing to inform you that the Ridgewood Education Association will not be participating in the Wizard Game on January 27th.   Our membership respects and fully supports the HSA sponsored events.  The decision not to participate is a difficult one, but our teachers have been working without a contract since September and evening events are ones that we find at this time are going to be removed until a contract is settled. We hope you understand our current position and ask you to urge the Board of Education to settle the contract.  

Our Association is making a donation in the amount of $500 towards the game. As always, you have our continued support and appreciation for the work you do for our schools.  

Respectfully,

Laura Grasso
Chief Negotiator 
Ridgewood Education Association

It's just the latest public showing for the teachers. In December, about 300 teachers rallied around the Education Center in a show of force.

“We came tonight to show support for our negotiators and encourage the Board of Education to settle our contract,” Josh Saladino, head of the Ridgewood Education Association’s action committee, told northjersey.com at the rally.

The district requested in both 2009 and 2010 that the teachers open up the contract to provide budget relief, as state aid dried up. Although a memorandum of agreement was reached in 2009 with union leadership, members voted concessions down.

The two sides will be meeting with a state-appointed fact finder in the hopes of ironing out a new contract for the 2012-2013 school year.

The school board budgeted for zero teacher salary increases in the current school year budget and on Monday, Board Secretary Angelo DeSimone said they're assuming up to 2 in percent salary increases next year. Officials caution they're rough projections and are subject to change before the budget is finalized, generally in late March.

Should an agreement not be reached, teachers will continue to work under the old contract.

HSA Federated President Lynn Granski did not respond to a request for comment.

Ridgewood Mom January 11, 2012 at 10:24 PM
According to the poll so far, it seems that most of the "public" thinks the teachers are in the right here (currently the numbers are 122 to 92 in support). Why should teachers should care at all what people who are set on slashing away in the name of private business style efficiency think. Their agenda is set regardless of what teachers say or do. They are clearly not interested in discussion or negotiation. Let's be honest. This "discussion" has nothing at all to do with basketball or boycotts or fund raisers.
Ridgewood Mom January 11, 2012 at 10:32 PM
There was this teacher once that I had many years ago. I think that I was in the third grade. Anyway, I thought I should have gotten at least a B for this spelling test she gave me and she gave me a C. I'll never forgive teachers for that happening.
Jodi Crandell January 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I've been wondering the same thing. How many teachers actually go and what is the purpose of this convention...It's a waste of two days off in November.
Inigo de Loyola January 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Me thinks that RW Mom is also a teacher.
Ridgewood Mom January 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Not quite. :)
Douglas Cronk January 11, 2012 at 10:55 PM
James- mental note: traffic down? Put up a story about teachers and contracts. It is interesting that no one was talking about the contract (or lack thereof) until this story. Maybe that's the point?
Michael Sedon January 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM
It's for the kids.
Ridgewood Mom January 11, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I would expect that they are "conferring" with other teachers. Heaven forbid they discuss the particularities of their trade with others who might actually have some knowledge and experience with it.
Irene January 11, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Many, many valid and well-thought out points above - it was very interesting to read all of them. Ridgewood Mom has some valid points about sustaining the reputation of Ridgewood's education, which in turn enhances our property values. On the other hand, WoodMom expressed some valid points as well about the archaic nature of union contracts which were developed primarily in the early 1900s. I do believe that Ridgewood teachers work hard and deserve a good contract, but they must make concessions like the rest of us have in the real world. We all work hard, not just the teachers. We all give more of our time than we'd like to, not just the teachers. We all struggle with health benefits, not just the teachers. The only difference is that I don't have a powerful union backing me up. I sometimes work 18 hours a day to keep a roof over my family's head. It is my honest opinion that there are some well-qualified, highly educated teachers out there who work in Paterson, Clifton, etc., who would jump at the chance to fill one of these Ridgewood slots and be more than happy to take concessions on behalf of all involved. I don't want my property values to go down, either, but that won't matter if I lose my house because I can't pay my taxes anymore - the school tax portion of the overall tax rolls is way, way too high. Ridgewood is going to become a ghost town if things keep going the way they are.
WoodMom January 12, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Unions create a perception that teachers are the same - degree, license, salary, etc. However, teachers are different. Until the 90s, standards and curricula were set by local districts and schools, which meant teachers were given broad discretion. Naturally, a variance occurs in what and how well students are taught based on the teacher. Teaching does require certain skills that suit certain people better than others. (Just because I was a great basketball player does not mean I will be a great basketball coach.) But, state licensing regimes don't account for those differences, which are obscured by union rules, which view unity and power in sameness. In the late 80s, the push for education standards and accountability started to rise due to concerns over high performing children from foreign competitors (Soviet Union and Japan then and India and China now). State governments established academic standards and began administering annual standardized tests. Some states began storing student test scores. They analyzed hundreds of thousands of test scores, which showed that some teachers were much better than others who in all other respects looked the same. Teachers can still speak with a collective voice while acknowledging that some are stronger than others. New teacher evaluation systems will provide evidence that some teachers are, as unions have insisted, under-appreciated and underpaid...but only some not all of them.
Dominick Nizza January 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Just proves that basketball, charity fun games, teacher contracts discussions was a bad mix to start this topic with so many tails wagging the Patch editors.
matt January 12, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I dont have a contract, had my salary cut by 10% and your work life sounds kind of similar to mine. 500 bucks from the union. please keep the charity and come on over to the real world.
Ridgewood Mom January 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I don't wish to stray too much from the basketball game topic, but I think you make an important point about teachers having a unique set of skills. For some teaching might come more naturally than for others. And a person can become better at it by learning. Many people don't get this. Teaching is a trade with qualifications. One of the greatest challenges of the public education system is that there is a constantly shifting trend of politics that hovers above it. That is, government politicians outside of education. Since these politicians generally have no teaching qualifications whatsoever (many of them aren't even very well educated), authority is generally uninformed and shifts demands placed upon teachers as quickly as political offices change hands. And these demands are rarely informed by anything that constitutes an understanding of good teaching. I would certainly not blame unions for obscuring the notion of professionalism amongst teachers. Unions may have their fair share of corruption, but in conjunction with the universities they establish the only consistent system of due process there is regarding professionalism in education. Unlike government politicians, they are informed by people with knowledge, experience and skills within the trade. And unlike government politicians, they even offer a great deal of professional guidance and assistance to help teachers become better teachers.
Ridgewood Mom January 12, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Also, merit pay doesn't make sense for the teaching profession any more than it does in the Village government. And the result that we should expect from such schemes is similar to what we see in the Village government. That is, an obviously excessive raise at the top, and persons who are closest and most political ally to those doing the evaluating getting more bonuses then others. This is just one big privatization fad. Teachers are not manufacturing widgets and their job is not one of administering to students from the top down. Their job is one of nurturing, from the bottom up. They don't need elaborate profit motives to make them want to do well. They just need a decent and steady living wage that allows them to put their thought and energies to their profession, and a feeling of being noticed and appreciated for what they do.
Irene January 12, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Ridgewood Mom, we all need a decent and steady living wage, we all need health benefits, we all need to be appreciated for what we do, and a lot of us are professionals with educational credentials who have taken paycuts and feel fortunate that we still have our jobs. The point I am trying to make is that teachers are no better than the rest of us working slobs - I just don't understand why the teachers would remain steadfast on getting their raises and benefits when they know that this will cause some of their colleagues to lose their jobs and will cause some of us who are living on the edge of bankruptcy to lose our homes. It doesn't make sense to me. Is this what we have become as a society? There are bigger issues here than just a basketball game. Don't the teachers have any sense of what the rest of the workforce is going through? The rest of the world can go to hell just as long as they get their raises? Am I the only one who feels this way? I help out people however I can in my business by not charging my full rate, even though I can hardly afford to do so, just because I want to help others in some small way. I feel that the teachers can sacrifice just a little bit of what they are entitled to so that the rest of us can breathe easier.
Ken F. January 12, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I would suggest reading this article. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/opinion/kristof-the-value-of-teachers.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share I'm all for paying a good teacher what they are worth but we need to have the ability to dismiss teachers who are doing damage to our kids by not being up to snuff. The teachers union protects bad teachers and this needs to change.
Irene January 12, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I agree with you Ken - many fine teachers in the Ridgewood schools but quite a few I could name (but won't here) who should not be in this profession.
Ridgewood Mom January 12, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Whatever the circumstances, most people, if asked, would state that they deserve to be paid more and not less. Most people who would compare what they earn with someone who earns more will feel that it isn't fair. Many of the same people will then turn around and compare what they earn with someone who earns less and see it as a sign of themselves working harder or doing more valuable work. So being "well paid" is a relative idea in some respects. And it is fair enough to state that even the greatest possible value in education isn't a great value for a person who can't afford it. No one in their right mind would try to claim that teachers have rock star salaries. I understand that times are tough for a lot of people and that misery loves company. But if inequity is the issue here, then we are clearly barking up the wrong tree. A whole lot of people feel that they are being treated unfairly these days, and legitimately so. But aren't people pointing their fingers in the wrong direction?
Irene January 12, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Yes, I understand what you're saying, Ridgewood Mom - my issue is not if someone makes more money than I do, or less money than I do. My issue lies in the fact that certain teachers (or any industry union member) will sit by and take their raises while knowing that other teachers are being let go as a result of it. If this were me, I would be more than happy to take less of a raise if it would help someone to keep their job. Would you care to address that particular issue? I don't feel I'm pinpointing teachers in particular - only mentioning it here because it is the topic. I would feel the same way about any union member who takes what they feel is due them at the expense of someone losing their job and not being able to support their family. "Benevolent" is the word that comes to my mind. Is this unrealistic? I know that some teachers were willing to take pay cuts during the 2009 budget but that they had no "voice," so to speak, in the bargaining process because they were so few. I hope you don't take this the wrong way - I respect everyone's opinions in this regard.
Proud Ridgewood guy January 13, 2012 at 03:21 AM
The Ridgewood teachers deserve everything and more. Their last contract was not that great, we are a premiere town in one of the best counties in the country so our educational system should reflect that. I would like the best people in this profession to be with my kids everyday and the way you get that is by paying them. Get real Ridgewood, there are a plenty of people in this town who receive bonuses in December more than these people's salary for the entire year. They do not get these bonuses.......so all the people who want to complain about giving these people a decent wage all I can say is walk a day in their shoes and I guarantee you will be running to give them whatever they need to be with these kids for a long period of time. Let's actually get all the guys who work on wall street to be the teachers for a week and when hell breaks loose, we can come back to reality and do what is right for the people granting our children the best education we could ask for....
Michael January 13, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Proud, The average yearly bump was 4% per year which is on par with their peers. They didn't want to open up the contract while the economy was crashing; fair enough, it was their right. The didn't realize that a new health and benefit schedule and 2% cap combined were going to sock them 2 years down the road. Now, they're forced to pay for their choices. I personally know about a dozen RW families (and, no, they are not all Wall Street types) who have been so badly by the economic downturn that some been forced to move away. The President and Governor have both used the term "shared sacrifice". By standing by their contract, the teacher's bill has arrived late. When our family first moved to town, I'd gladly stand up for the teachers, but 20 years later, I can barely recognize what they have become. It's a sad but undeniable truth that there are only a few gems in a large pool of mediocre actors.
Irene January 13, 2012 at 02:00 PM
As I stated before, "My issue lies in the fact that certain teachers (or any industry union member) will sit by and take their raises while knowing that other teachers are being let go as a result of it." It is interesting to me that absolutely no one on this comment thread has offered their views on this issue. Do teachers feel that it is futile to take a paycut because it won't matter anyway? I am truly trying to understand the mindset of the teachers because I always like to understand both sides of an issue. Can anyone comment on this? I would especially like to hear from those in favor of issuing the status quo raises to teachers this year.
Lawrence January 13, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Proud Guy - the majority of Ridgewoodians are NOT millions-of-dollar-a-year Wall Streeters. Many of us have received no raises or bonuses for years. Many are fixed income retirees. Others are unemployed or underemployed. I am most certain that all of us are contributing far more to our benefits than we were a few years ago. Simply put, most of us have no more to give. And to be honest, a teacher's salary + benefits + job securityfor 10 months of work are a pretty decent living right now with or without a raise. Let's not forget the many, many of our teachers are supplementing thier incomes working those two months during the summers and/or tutoring throughout the school year at $100+/hour. This all sound pretty good to me considering the adverse hits I've taken in the past few years (including a 30% increase in my medical coverage and 0% raise for the past 4 years). The Ridgewood teachers comittment to excellence seems to have waned in the recent years. "Period 9" at the high school is a joke. Elementary school teachers rarely hold afterschool help sessions anymore. We are no longer the elite district we once were when compared with our peer districts. Having a long history with RPS, I believe that the quality of our teachers has diminished. If I thought our teachers deserved more, I'd be the first on at the BOE meeting. But, sadly, I do not believe they do.
Ridgewood Mom January 13, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Irene, What you describe is pretty much the same in most public sector jobs. For example, with recent pay structure changes to the Ridgewood police department last summer officers within the system maintained their salaries (albeit without well deserved raises) and new hires now receive a lower starting salary. So, those lower on the totem pole (new hires) get less in order for those higher on the totem pole (established officers) to maintain the status quo. I don't know what the exact fair amounts or proportions are, so I personally withhold judgement. But I don't think that this says anything particularly bad about teachers (or police officers) on the whole. Most people in most professions have a particular concern for their own self interest over that of others. Economists label this sort of intrinsic self interest as "the profit motive" and some go so far as to view it as the end all and be all of work related human motivation. Either way, the problem is meager compared to what is mainstream in banking, finance and big business. There top bosses are profiting historic records in salary, bonuses and perks while the majority of persons are getting less and less each year. Globally, there are literally millions of people toiling away in sweatshops under the most inhumane and unimaginable conditions to create immense wealth for a small handful of individuals. http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1
Irene January 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Thanks for your comments, Ridgewood Mom - I understand what you're saying about the huge perks executives get off the backs of their underlings. I know that everyone has to look out for themselves, and that that is a primary human component of survival, but if I were a teacher and belonged to a union, and I needed to make a personal choice between a 4% raise, a 2% raise or no raise at all, I would base my decision upon how my choice would affect my colleagues. That's all I'm saying. I personally think the teachers in 2009 were very selfish and thoughtless when it came to accepting their raises, especially when they knew that it would mean some of their colleagues, including those with families, would lose their jobs. And, again, that's just my personal opinion. I would really like to understand the teachers' reasoning when they accepted those raises because I just can't understand it, beyond your explanation of intrinsic self-interest.
Joe January 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM
They "reached into their pockets" to the tune of $1 each. Wow. (That's assuming the teachers actually contributed and not the union.) And if you're a teacher, you need to stop believing (and spreading) the spin that you are somehow "working without a contract." You are working under the same contract you worked under for the past three years. It didn't go away. The BOE are not the ones dragging their feet here, and we all know it.
Joe January 13, 2012 at 10:25 PM
People, you need to understand that the current problem with the contract is not the amount of any raise -- it's the health benefit. From listening to some of the BOE members speak here and there over the past year or two, they stated that the current scenario in which health insurance costs go up 10% or more, but the district is only allowed to grow the budget 2%, means the difference comes out of the rest of the budget. This has been happening year after year. How long do you think that can go on? THAT is the problem and I would bet dollars to donuts that is where they are stuck. I would love to hear from some teachers on here justify paying so little for insurance and expect the taxpayers to make up the difference when the cost goes up. Anyone?
Irene January 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I'm sitting here waiting also for some of those views - my ears are as big as Dumbo's! I went without health insurance for 6 years because I was laid off from my job and couldn't afford the huge premiums through Cobra. Thank God I was healthy! I don't want to have to pay for the teachers' health insurance premiums through my taxes, and I don't think there are very many people in Ridgewood who do, either.
Ridgewood Mom January 16, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Average NYC financial sector salary = $361,330 (16 percent increase over the average last year) http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/wall-street-could-face-10000-additional-job-losses/
jp1 March 21, 2012 at 02:47 PM
This is a very true statement as the same thing happened to my daughter a few years back. I find that the teachers and there union are a bunch of over rated primadonnas. Lost all respect for them some time ago.

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