Here's a look at a discussion thread Monday on the Haddonfield Talks Internet chat room:
I was dismayed to find out that Back to School nights at all Haddonfield schools are cancelled this year, but wished to give the teachers, who are protesting their lack of a contract, the benefit of the doubt.
Then I get a mailing today encouraging us -- parents of Haddonfield students -- to contact BOE members and urge them to reach a settlement with the teachers. The mailer touts the achievements of Haddonfield students and infers that this success is due to the strength and talent of the teachers.The tagline on this mailer is "Teachers have a choice where to teach. Let's make sure the very best teachers continue to choose Haddonfield."
Oh really? First, I don't know what economy they are living in (or state, for that matter), but there are plenty of out of work teachers living around here who are desperate to be offered *any* teaching job -- forget having to choose from among several opportunities to work in a top-tier district.
Second of all, I am not convinced that the success of the students in this town lies solely at the feet of the teaching staff. Yes, my child has had some very good teachers in her nine years in this district. She has had many mediocre teachers who were either burnt out, not very good or otherwise phoning it in. She has also had a few teachers who I am stunned are allowed to continue teaching in this district because of their total lack of interest in and/or support of the kids, which they voice regularly to the children as well as to the parents. Like any other workplace, the staff is a mixed bag -- not just the cream of the crop.
No, what makes the children in Haddonfield succeed to the level that they do is the resources provided by and the support of the parents. You can have outstanding teachers in every classroom at every grade level, but without parental encouragement and involvement, the teachers' ability to affect success in each of their students is severely compromised. And I say this as a former teacher.
I really would like to support the Haddonfield Education Association, but their unrealistic belief of their unique and intrinsic value does not ring true for this parent and, as a result, does not motivate me to reach out on their behalf.
...I gather that the teachers are performing their contractual duties, and assume that the Back-to-School Night events are not obligatory. In situations where workers have been on the job without a contract for what appears to be 14 months, job actions of this sort are hardly a surprise. Of course it's an inconvenience to some residents, and a signal that all is not well. That does not mean western civilization is on the abyss.
No one has posted details of the negotiations to this listserv, though the Patch has had interesting coverage. There have been a number of national reports that upper-middle and higher income earners have recovered more successfully from the 2008 crash than others, which would likely mean that Haddonfield residents are doing better than many of the teachers. There does not seem to be firm information on this or on the possible recovery in real estate values in town, so I cannot say more.
That does not mean the town is obliged to pay its workers more. But there's an argument to be made. My own experience is that our family benefited from some wonderful teachers in town, and suffered from a few bad ones -- sadly, I met one at a Back to School Night. It was so miserable an encounter that I guess I wish that had been cancelled. For sure, parents, peer groups, home life all contribute to student success: but so do well-trained teachers.
This is a labor negotiation. Both parties have cards to play, and the current move by teachers is one of those cards. But it has not happened in a vacuum: 14 months is a long time to work without a contract.
Outraged is my word for it.
Failing to show for Back to School Night, and whatever other disruptions alluded to by Dr. Perry that may happen in the future, believe the true intentions of our teachers and their representation.
We are told repeatedly by our teachers and education staff how they "care" and are "concerned for" our children. Having young children, I do see genuine care and concern from nearly all of my kid's teachers and aides.
At the same time, I see care and concern from the parents, relatives, and neighbors of these children that goes beyond any level I have seen demonstrated elsewhere. These same parents, relatives, and neighbors have all suffered loss of wages and income, loss of home equity, and in many cases are just struggling to make it.
Governor Christie (like him or hate him) was elected by a majority of citizens. The Assembly and Senate, also duly elected, passed reforms and caps which further constrain the ability to compensate teachers, aides, administrators, janitors, etc. at anywhere near the rate of increase we have seen historically...
The Board of Education represents every single citizen in Haddonfield, not just the parents who will run to the BOE and scream at them to give the teachers whatever they want at any cost.
In the current economic climate, this action appears aggressive and is surprising. I believe that “Backfire” is the operative word below that describes the unanimous sentiments posted so far about this ill-advised action. Have these folks not been reading the papers or watching the news during this prolonged period of hardship? As bad as it has been and for this long, indications are that many believe that we may be heading back into a double-dip recession. The negative trend and sentiment needs to be taken into account as well during these discussions.