Teachers' contract negations reach mile marker Impasse likely to make mediation necessary
by Tom Jennemann Reporter staff writer
Oct 04, 2002 | 452 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Negations between the Board of Education and the Hoboken teachers have slowed to a point where both sides have agreed to use a mediator. Both groups remain optimistic that amicable agreement can reached and said Wednesday that mediation is positive step towards an acceptable resolution of the negotiations.

Anthony Curko, the business administrator of the Board of Education, confirmed Wednesday that the talks have stalled. "Contract negotiations are at an impasse and a mediator is needed," said Curko. "It's just going slower than everyone hoped and wished. We're apart right now and want to bring someone in to draw us a little closer together."

According to Curko, the teachers' contract expired three months ago and in the last four months the district's negotiating team has met with the teachers union at least 10 times.

He added that papers have been filed with the state's Public Employee Relations Commissions to officially declare an impasse.

Board of Education President Jack Raslowsky II, who is allied with the mayor, said Thursday that he the act of bringing in a mediator should not be seen as negative occurrence but rather should be viewed as a step towards an agreement. "Negotiations are never easy and that is true in this case," he said. "The hope is that bringing in a mediator can only help, because they don't bring any baggage with them to the table."

Mary McGavin, a Hoboken English teacher since 1969 and the president of the Hoboken Education Association, said that negotiations have been cordial and that bringing in a mediator is the "natural progression" of the process. "We haven't been screaming at each other or anything like that," said McGavin. "I do believe that we are going into this optimistically hoping that we are going come to an agreement that is beneficial to our members and beneficial to [the Board of Education]."

She said that the two sides are still apart on salary. "As with all negotiations, you take care of money issues first," she said. "We couldn't seem to get past that one."

Under the old contract the average teacher would have received a 2 percent annual pay raise.

McGavin added that the district's teachers have made tangible gains in the past couple years and deserve compensation.

"I think we have been very successful," she said. "I think we should be rewarded with a fair and just salary."

McGavin immediately pointed to the district's improvements in its standardized test scores. According to figures supplied by the New Jersey Department of Education, in the 1997-1998 school year only 64.1 percent of students passed the High School Proficiency Test in October and April of their junior year. That was well below the statewide average of 83.5 percent passing.

Compare that to the 2000-2001 school year, where 97.5 percent of Hoboken's students passed, which is well above the state average of 81.3 percent statewide. "This just didn't happen overnight," said McGavin. "Our members have worked very hard."

According to numbers from the state Department of Education, the average Hoboken teacher during the 2000-2001 school year, has median of 26 years of experience and was earning an average of $70,677. Statewide, the average teacher has 13 years experience and makes $50,110.

Also according to the state, the average cost per pupil during the 2001-2002 school year in Hoboken was $13,611 compared to $11,039 statewide.

Currently, the towns of Kearny and Guttenberg are at the same stage with their teacher contract negotiations.
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