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Haddonfield Residents Upset About Teachers' Action

Teachers refusal to participate in Back to School night not going over well on Haddonfield Talks Internet chat room.

Here's a look at a discussion thread Monday on the Haddonfield Talks Internet chat room:

Kim Moon:

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.

Dan Thompson:

...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.  

Herb Hess:

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.

Bill Tourtellotte:

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.

Amy Shaw September 13, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I believe that the refusal of the HEA to participate in Back to School Nights contradicts their prior claims to only have the best intentions for the students. While I fully support the rights of the teachers to collective bargaining, refusing to attend BTS seems to be "shooting themselves in the foot." We parents repeatedly hear that it is important that we partner with the teacher to ensure the best education for our children. I wholeheartedly agree, and have never missed a BTS night for any of my three children. This is because I see the BTS Night as am important opportunity to meet the teachers, learn what their expectations are, and determine how best to support my kids through the school year. (Oh, and every year, I send thank you e-mails to the teachers on the morning after BTS Night, because I realize that they are giving up time with their own families.) Denying the parents and children the opportunity for this important communication due to the status of contract negotiations seems to work more against their cause than for it. This action is really taken with our kids' best interests at heart? I think not.
HMHS GRAD September 14, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Am I the only Haddonfield resident supporting the teachers? I hardly think that the BOE's requests are within the best interest of the students. Furlough days for teachers? We all know how wonderful the classroom learning environment is when there is a sub. I'll give up BTSN to keep my teachers in the classroom.
Jim September 14, 2011 at 12:25 PM
The teachers should not go on strike which they did by refusing to attend the BTS event. The teachers should be fired and new teachers hired without pensions only 401 k pension and you will send a message around the country that the town will not be held hostage by the teachers and their union ,
Dawn September 14, 2011 at 01:31 PM
What world are these teachers living in? Employers cannot afford the pensions, healthcare & 401k that these teachers receive. Add these costs into their salaries, no wonder Haddonfield's taxes are so high. The Haddonfield teachers are SPOILED. Try working somewhere else. And, I love the comment from the good Dr. that the teachers are acting in the best interest of our children. If that were the case then they would be having back to school night.
Mary Smith September 14, 2011 at 01:50 PM
I'm so dissappointed in the teachers. Let's take a look at the community, where 90% of the parents pay for SAT/ACT Courses. The "gene pool" in this town is well above average. I like the fact that Ms. Stokes is giving all the credit to the "outstanding" teachers in this town. I I've put several children through this school district. We've had a few great teachers, a very few who've taken their own time to help my children. Most of them do their job and go home. That's fine, but don't tell me how they are so much better than other teachers in other towns. You are not dealing with the same situations as the teacher in Camden. I would love to know what your benefits are and why you won't negotiate to settle. I'm sure most of us would love your situation (salary and benefits). Don't put the children in the middle. Let's be upfront and let us know what benefits you won't budge on.
Sharon Herbert Serano September 14, 2011 at 11:10 PM
The teachers are not participating in the Back To School Night because they don't have a contract. Plain and simple. If the residents in town didn't know that before, they do now. Wake Up BOE!! Families move to Haddonfield for the excellent school system, not the snobbery. If your taxes are too high and you do not have school-age children, then move out. Some other lucky family will be happy to take your place.
Jay Hession September 14, 2011 at 11:42 PM
same goes for teachers who won't negotiate. Get another job, there are plenty of others who are waiting for yours.
Anon. Grad September 14, 2011 at 11:46 PM
I'm sorry, but Ms. Smith...parents pay for SAT/ACT prep classes because it is all but mandatory now. Sure the average Haddonfield student will garner a good grade on their own, with only a Haddonfield education as preparation, but the reality in this town is that average isn't good enough. The point was raised earlier that the teachers are only a small part of students' success. Extra curricular activities, sports, parental involvement, etc supplement teachers...I beg to differ. The teachers in this school district gave me hope and ambition and the knowledge that there were bigger things than such an insular town. I grew as a person from teacher involvement in my life, and am that much better off today, some years out of the district, for it. And while teachers may not be 'dealing with the same situations as the teacher in Camden', teaching in Haddonfield comes with its own hardships. How is someone supposed to go about their job with overzealous parents throwing empty threats around? Try dealing with over-privileged students all day long who are more in tune to the latest social trend than furthering their education. The sole thing I walked away from Haddonfield with is a spectacular education, thanks to the teachers.
Jay Hession September 15, 2011 at 01:19 AM
I was so glad to read your comment about the education you received. However, when you become a parent and send several children through the school system you will see that there are many different teachers. Some who are outstanding, many who just do what is expected of them and a few who do the bare minimum. I have personally seen teachers who live in this town talk "trash" about certain students. As a parent I have seen teachers who wouldn't respond to any emails unless I contacted the principal. Yes, we have a wide mixture of teachers in this town. You sound like the type of student that all teachers would have loved to have. Unfortunately that is not every student. Sometimes it's the ones who need the help that get ignored on a regular basis. It's alot easier to be a great teacher to a great student. It takes an outstanding teacher to give her time and patience to a struggling student, and I can tell you, there aren't many of them in Haddonfield. I wish you the best in your future, and I'm glad to had a great experience.
Concerned Resident & Parent September 15, 2011 at 02:23 AM
I have to disagree with several of your statements. There are bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad plumbers, etc. No school district will be perfect. The vast majority of our town's teachers are hardworking professionals. Teachers and parents both play a role in a child's development as a student and as a person. I would think that you (as a parent) would want a combination of both. Good teachers and good parenting....it's seems logical. But it also seems that you feel the teachers in town are sub-standard and I have to ask - why would you continue to send your children through this district and complain about it? And why would you deal with the high taxes? Instead of moving out, you have chosen to stay in town and be part of a district that is ranked in the nation academically, has continuously outperformed similar districts in statewide testing on every level, excels in athletics and the arts and routinely sends over 90% of its graduating class on to four year colleges. People tout the accolades and enjoy the perks but then question a group of people who are trying to earn a decent living wage. From what I have heard, the teachers want to settle. The last time I checked students do not attend BTSN; therefore, the teachers aren't hurting any of their students. The literature that I have read states that once a contract is agreed upon, they will be holding BTSN. The teachers here are the reason that many of my friends and I (alums)have moved back to raise our families.
Jeffrey S. Kasko September 15, 2011 at 03:47 AM
Ms. Serano: I'm sorry, but your comment begs for a reply. "If your taxes are too high and you do not have school-age children, then move out. Some other lucky family will be happy to take your place." Do you not realize how short-sighted and fiscally dangerous that statement is? Think about it -- Senior Citizens on fixed incomes with no kids don't cost the borough that much -- and they don't cost the school district anything. When they move out and a "lucky family" moves in, guess what? The costs to the borough and the school district (meaning all other property taxpayers) skyrocket!!! If you have three kids in the schools, the property taxes you pay don't cover them - it's everyone else's taxes (without kids) that do! So the suggestion that people with no kids move out doesn't make sense. It raises the cost on the rest of us, which raises property taxes even more, which drives out even more people on fixed incomes. That's a dangerous sprial towards creating a town where only wealthy people who can afford higher and higher property taxes can live! I don't think that's the kind of town we want. And a lot of families wouldn't feel so "lucky." Talk about snobbery! Shame on you for suggesting it.
LisaMichaels Salon September 15, 2011 at 10:37 AM
Working with out a contract speaks volumes.Did the residents even know HOW long they have been working with out one? Guessing not!! But NOW everyone will know because it took this to get you people to CARE. Back to School night......
Sharon Herbert Serano September 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM
Mr Kasko: "That's a dangerous sprial towards creating a town where only wealthy people who can afford higher and higher property taxes can live! I don't think that's the kind of town we want." It's already here. People on fixed incomes shouldn't have to pay over $10K in taxes, but that's what's happening if they live in Haddonfield.
Mary Smith September 15, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Can anyone tell us what the "sticky points" are in the negotiations? I'm sure the residents would love to know.
HMHS GRAD September 15, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Several weeks ago the BOE pitched that each teacher take five furlough days in the way of a pay cut. Consequently, for a high school student with five major subjects, he/she would have 25 substitute teachers throughout the year in addition to whatever other absences were reported due to illness and personal days. That was my understanding. I'm not sure if this was the BOE's ploy to start extremely in order to make for better compromise, but I highly doubt we will continue to convince tuition students to come if we become a district who furloughs teacher. Sounds like something Hawaii would do. The BOE, I am hoping, withdrew that proposal, but I am not sure. Like Dr. Perry so professionally said, "There are two sides to the story," but I am sure that the BOE's story is a little more shocking and disappointing than we would like to think.
Dawn September 15, 2011 at 04:23 PM
The point here still is with pension& healthcare the teachers are already being paid very nicely. There are plenty of good teachers out there that need a job and would love to come work in the Haddonfield schools. I do not feel sorry for the whiny, underworked, overpaid teachers that are not under contract. This is Haddonfield, deal with the parents, it's not Camden where teachers fear for their lives. Get over it & get back to work.
HEA September 15, 2011 at 07:40 PM
The faculty and related support staff of the Haddonfield Public Schools remain committed to providing our students with the same exceptionally high quality of education all stakeholders expect and deserve. Within our classrooms and libraries, on stage and on fields, the energy, enthusiasm, and positive school climate continue to be unaltered. Collegial relationships between all members of the Haddonfield Education Association (HEA) and building administrators remain cordial. As always, parents who wish to meet with their child's teacher to discuss matters relevant to the student are welcomed and encouraged to do so. Factual information provided to the public by the HEA is intended to raise public awareness of the current status of negotiations. It is the expressed desire of the HEA that a fair and equitable settlement is achieved. The members of the HEA look forward to sharing our classrooms and curriculum with parents at an evening event once an agreement is reached. Though we may disagree, it is our sincere hope to resolve our differences in a civil and respectful manner.
Doug September 16, 2011 at 05:29 PM
When students and schools are failing, it's the parents' fault. When students and schools are excelling, it's the ... teacher's?
Sarah Williams September 16, 2011 at 06:38 PM
As a former Haddonfield student, I feel it is important to weigh in on this discussion. I am confused that people believe that the teachers’ postponement of Back To School Night somehow translates into a lack of concern for students. BSN has never been about students; it's for the parents. And if Haddonfield fails to have a Back To School Night, it doesn't reflect on the quality of teaching that occurs in the classroom. I find parents’ disregard for teachers both alarming and disheartening. While not the sole reason I was successful in college and law school, the education I received in Haddonfield set me up to be successful. Haddonfield teachers are far from spoiled. While the students may be high achieving and have fewer behavioral issues, teachers in Haddonfield must deal with the parents of Haddonfield. If the BOE and parents do not support teachers in Haddonfield, the level of education will decline and the students will suffer. The teachers who are currently working without a contract are not being greedy. They understand that "compromises" like furlough days are not appropriate for a school district. Replacing full-time teachers with substitute teachers for these five days a year is a quick fix to save some money but in the end will be damaging to the students’ education and the school district’s reputation. My parents moved to Haddonfield so I could receive a stellar public school education. And I did. It’s time to support the teachers who supported us.
Heather Carmody Pruessing September 16, 2011 at 08:07 PM
As a graduate of HMHS, daughter of a teacher, and current teacher myself, I have to say that I am startled by the ignorance in many of these comments. In Haddonfield, we enjoy the prestige that has come with our superior school system, and our teachers have played the most essential role in this success! For anyone, who shares the absurd view that teachers are paid too much and work too little, I would love with all my heart to see him or her attempt to teach and inspire students themselves—most would surely fail. Having taught and been a student in several schools in the US and in Europe, I can attest that Haddonfield teachers are something special—something unique. The lessons they prepare are of the highest quality. They are patient, creative, and devoted to their students. If they are not provided with an adequate contract, all that will vanish. Our teachers will move on to other districts—to schools where they are valued. Please don’t allow that to happen.
Anon September 16, 2011 at 10:53 PM
As an HMHS graduate, I am deeply saddened by the entitled, self-congratulatory attitude of many of the parents posting on this message board. Aside from potentially imbuing your children with a similar attitude, you probably are good parents. That's to be commended -- your attendance at events like Back to School night and interest in your children's education is surely critical to their success. At the same time, it's undeniable that your children's teachers have also contributed to their successes. No, maybe not every one of the teachers, but by denying the district a contract, you're certainly also hurting the good ones that you would hope to find in your student's classroom on back to school night. If you believe that, as parents, your superior investment in your students and community is paving the way for your children's successes, and I'd caution that failing to provide a contract for your teachers is a poor way to represent your efforts. I commend the teachers for taking appropriate action in canceling Back to School Night. If parents cannot be bothered to invest in their children by providing a contract for their teachers, they do not deserve the additional time and devotion of their children's teachers.
Jay Hession September 17, 2011 at 12:36 AM
It's too bad the former students don't pay the taxes in this town. The reality is, these are tough times, many people are without work. The BOE is not asking for major things, however, these teachers don't plan on giving an inch. They think that they are entitled to everything they want, after all, this is Haddonfield. In the real world if they made these demands they would all be out of work. Be thankful for the great job you have with many terrific benefits. If that's not enough to keep you here and you want more, than I say move on. Good luck. Unlike the few former students above, I think there are alot of great teachers out there who would love to work in Haddonfield.
Sharon Herbert Serano September 17, 2011 at 01:45 PM
I feel that I must speak to the people who believe that the teachers should leave if they don't like their current situation at Haddonfield. Teaching is based on a tenure system. If a teacher leaves one district, they cannot carry their tenure to another district. They must earn it again over another 3 years of service, if they last that long in this economic climate. They are leaving themselves open to be the first one cut when the budget fails, no matter how good they are in the classroom. Also, not every district will give teachers credit for all their years of service, especially if they previously worked in a private school and want to make the change over to public. There are no headhunters in education. No fat contracts. No bonuses. Their product is not something that can be bought, sold, or listed on a stock portfolio. Yes teachers have summers off, but that only means that they must find other work during the summer, often completing against their own students for seasonal employment. School districts try very hard to keep the best staff they can. Trust me, they do not want someone incompetent representing their school. Trust in your school system, and reward the faculty and staff that give your children a priceless commodity: a quality education.
Dawn September 19, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Reward faculty & staff that are leaving children & parents in the cold? What?? Canceling btsn is not what is best for the children. Tenure can also be an evil thing. There are teachers that barely even teach & cannot be touched because they are tenured. Haddonfield teachers get paid VERY well & have amazing benefits compared to many other school districts. Who cares if they are under a signed contract or not? They are still receiving a paycheck, healthcare, 401k & pension. Show the parents you really care about our kids & have btsn.
Former Union Member September 22, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Ms. Serano - tenure is most certainly not an indicator of the worth of the teacher. A lot of tenured teachers should NOT BE Tenured. Where else in the world do people get a guarantee of future emplyment just for showing up for three years? The teacher evaluations for tenure are a joke and need major revising.
Sharon Herbert Serano September 24, 2011 at 02:58 AM
I am truly amazed at the number of people who consider teachers the enemy, or entitled babysitters, or just plain greedy tenured bums. Maybe I'm putting words into your mouth, but that's the impression you are giving with your negative comments to the educational community.
chris lenny September 25, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Interesting perspective. (link below) "In highly unionized industries, like teaching, this means keeping many qualified women (or men) out of the job market. Across the country, union-negotiated rules tend to make it difficult (if not impossible) for school districts to hire the PhD math whiz that has been a stay-at-home mom but who now wants to teach part-time. Rules about certification and seniority benefit union members at the expense of other potential workers and students who would benefit from a more diverse, higher quality teaching force." http://blog.heritage.org/2011/09/22/how-unions-hurt-women/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Morning%2BBell
Jim Tucker September 29, 2011 at 03:35 AM
There are a lot of good points back and forth here but regardless of who's side any of us are on, and regardless of our political and societal views, can we all agree that HEA took a giant leap backward if they intended to gain support from the parents by canceling BTS? Judging from everything I've read these last few weeks I'd say that HEA alienated and angered 80% more parents in one fell swoop. HEA had an opportunity to demonstrate solid leadership by continuing (yes continuing) to take the high road, explaining to parents how they've been going above and beyond without a contract, and the parents in this town would have applauded the HEA for it. Parents, many of whom are out of work completely, would have empathized with HEA and teachers for continuing to forge ahead for the good of the school and the children. Instead I believe HEA leadership lost their composure and "bullied" the teachers themselves, the BOE, and the parents by cancelling BTS and everyone lost including the children. I used the term "bully" because what HEA just did reminded me of the bullying stories I hear from my 9 year old daughter. Ironic parallel I think. I respect the teachers themselves and concede that they individually probably wanted to be there at BTS almost as much as the parents, but probably had less to say about that than us. Thanks for reading.
Linda Wiliiams Smith October 06, 2011 at 01:11 AM
I'm an HMHS grad . . don't be afraid to share your name if you want to stand by your convictions . . .

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