Students Demand End to Teacher Contract Dispute

Job action means letters of recommendation are not written, students claim.

Students demanded Monday night that the school board and the Hopatcong Education Association must find a way to end the ongoing contract dispute  because it is affecting students’ ability to get signed letters of recommendations from teachers.

The two sides have each filed unfair labor charges against the other in the dispute over contract language about health care contributions that is holding up scheduled raises for support staff and teachers aides.

The teachers, in the job action, have been declining to work extra unpaid hours, and students said they have been unable to get teachers to write letters of recommendation to send to colleges.

Rick Lavery, a student liaison to the school board, said the teachers’ actions are causing students to miss college application  deadlines.

“We need this  solved,” Lavery said.

HEA President Susan Hill said the union was willing to discuss the issue at the end of Monday’s school board meeting.

Board president  Clifford Lundin agreed to talk, and at 10 p.m. Monday, the two sides met to discuss how to move forward on getting letters of recommendation written.

The simmering dispute brought the teachers to another picket line before Monday’s meeting, and at times boiled up during the meeting.

Lundin said a Nov. 1  session with the New Jersey Pubic Employees Relations Commission to discuss the dispute was washed out by Hurricane Sandy.  A new session is set for December.

The dispute relates to changes discovered in June to the three-year contract agreed to by the union and the district in January.

The contract language issue was discovered during the process of reconciling the old contract and the new one.

The  board is withholding a scheduled 1.95 percent pay raise that was due at the start of the school, and in response the union filed  an unfair labor practice complaint with PERC.  The school board files its own unfair labor complaint at that time as well.

The contract language relates to changes in the state law that mandate  the level of payroll contributions required of teachers to pay for their health care benefits. Both sides agree the levels of withholding is set by state law.

The contract in dispute contains a phrase, “This provision has been superseded by statute” that is set off  by an asterisk.

The dispute is over whether that phrase is sufficient to bring the contact into compliance with the  2011 state law.

Jordan Hubbard November 25, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Regardless of what anyone thinks the actions of teachers union was designed to drive home the awareness of the lack of a contract. It clearly worked because here we are reading about it and drawing needed awareness. They are not required and write letters of recommendation and do so mostly on their own (uncompensated) time. One reason Hopatcong is failing is the socioeconomic status of the residents and their involvement with the education of our children. The grading policies enacted in the late 90's designed to pass not challenge children, deterioration of educational programs such as the Art's, Critical Thinking programs and afterschool activities. The teachers clearly have been pushed to teach to the HSPA. The administrative staff is handsomely paid and many positions could be eliminated. Have the unions grown out of control, probably. Should the administration and staff be held responsible, clearly! From the tagline to the byline all media is designed as entertainment with varying degrees of reality. We never have all the facts and to some degree need to be skeptical on both sides.
Walden November 25, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Walden 7:59 pm on Friday, November 23, 2012 Should a student be applying to an Ivy League school that requires letters of recommendation, I would suggest the student see his/her guidance counselor and call the college to discuss other options. Letters are a small component of the admissions process. The high school transcript, SAT/ACT scores, extracurricular activities and supplemental essays carry more weight. Merit scholarships are based primarily on academic performance and not letters of recommendation. On the bright side, that hard-working student must have had some terrific teachers to enable him/her to meet the admissions requirements for an Ivy League school.
Walden November 26, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I do not think colleges would unfairly penalizing a student for circumstances out of their control. The guidance counselor could explain the situation in his letter of recommendation or call the admissions office directly. Problem solved!
Michele Guttenberger November 27, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Hopatcongnite - Randy aka Roll Back Our Tax left this comment on Facebook on why he does not comment on Patch. "Many of you who follow Patch or live in Hopatcong and are friends of mine have been asking why "Roll Back Our Tax" (my alias) "does NOT comment anymore on Patch". Well I am still here unfortunately but I have quit commenting on Patch. Why? Because the Mayor filed a complaint to the Hopatcong Police about me. Below is what I wrote to Chief Brennan. on August 22, 2012." When Randy told me of the visit by the Hopatcong Detective to his home for questioning, I thought this was a real abuse of power by the Mayor. Patch screens its comments and if they thought it was a terrorist comment, it would never have been posted. The comment could also have been flagged but it wasn't. In fact, after his visit by the detective the comment in question remained up on Patch. I believe it was Randy who decided to take the comment down. But the horror of it is that he did not use his real name and the Mayor was able to get his ID. Randy is the individual who got the Ethics violation against the the Mayor for her first class solicitation letter to all Hopatcong households to vote yes to merging two planning boards. She was also running for reelection as Mayor and the vote gave her power over both boards. She is going to appeal the ethics violation, but the public has not been notified of her new rescheduled court date.
The Watcher November 27, 2012 at 03:05 AM
"They" didn't drop roll back our tax his picture and "roll back our tax" were copied by John P (who also posted as the FBI). This offender posted as Randy (including using his picture) and wrote some defaming remarks (as Randy) about Randy. Randy posted that he reported his identity being stolen to Patch, the Hopatcong Police department, and the FBI. Apparently nothing was done to alleviate the situation so although I am not attempting to speak for Randy I can say he has not posted in quite some time, and I believe it is by his choice.


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