War of words continues
School district responds to teachers’ march
by By Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Nov 13, 2013 | 4902 views | 3 3 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NOT SETTLED YET– School officials says they do not have the money to meet teachers’ demands.
NOT SETTLED YET– School officials says they do not have the money to meet teachers’ demands.
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The rhetoric between those negotiating a contract for teachers and those negotiating for the school board is getting hotter as the city prepares to go into a new municipal election in May. The teachers are currently in their fourth year without a contract, and both sides are waiting for the outcome of a state fact finder, although all agree the findings won’t be binding.

Teachers marched around City Hall on Oct. 18 to send a message to Mayor Mark Smith that they are unhappy with the Board of Education and the lack of movement on the contract.

Alan D’Angelo, president of the Bayonne Teachers’ Association, is negotiating on behalf of 750 teachers and 50 secretaries in the Bayonne school district,

D’Angelo said the district offered a zero-percent increase the first year, and a freeze the second year for teachers at the top of the salary guide. At the same time, he said, the school district awarded a two-percent increase to some of the top-earning administrators, which has teachers crying foul.

School officials responded last week, saying that the overall costs of teachers’ demands exceeds $22 million over the four years covered by the contract.

“We did everything we could to settle this contract,” said Board President Will Lawson. “Back in October of 2012 we made a final offer which would cost $7.7 million over four years. We had to raise taxes to pay for this final proposal. We are not going to raise taxes any higher or spend money we don’t have. Alan D’Angelo’s comment that the Board has refused to meet with the BTA since November 2012 is absolutely wrong.”

School officials said that on February 7, 2013, a state-appointed mediator conducted a mediation session with the BTA and the Board’s negotiations team at the Board offices. At that meeting the BTA advised the Board that it wanted to go to fact finding. A fact finder was appointed by the state and that fact finder conducted a negotiation session with the BTA and the Board on April 24, 2013, at the Board offices. At the conclusion of that session, the fact finder advised the parties that he was going to conduct a formal hearing at which he would review all the information the BTA and the Board had regarding the negotiations and would then issue a formal report. The fact-finder hearing, attended by representatives of the Board and the BTA, was held on July 22, 2013. Briefs summarizing the parties’ respective positions were filed with the fact finder on July 30, 2013.

At issue are several factors concerning salary increases. Teachers receive an increase in salary currently over 15 years or steps as they are called. The step guide is currently at 15, and the district says it wants to expand it to 17. This, according to school officials, would prevent the district from laying off teachers. By accepting the guide, teachers agree to get lower salaries for the early part of their careers, and then get rewarded later. The point at which their salaries more dramatically increase is called “the bubble” and arrives around year 12. By adding two steps, the school district reduces some of the impact of these increases, so a teacher may see half the raise he or she might have received under the existing guide in that year. The problem for teachers is that raises are cumulative, so that they lose a significant amount of money under the proposal, although the two sides dispute that.

School officials, however, said that the step guide was never written in stone and that it was proposed at a time prior to massive cuts in state aid to Bayonne. Combined with the collapse in the national economy in 2008, the loss of state aid required the district to cut back and rethink things that were forged during a more robust economic climate.

Now the parties are waiting for the Fact Finder’s Report. As soon as it is received, representatives of the Board and the BTA must meet within 10 days.

“We are expecting the Fact Finder’s Report any day,” Lawson said.

In a written report to the state’s fact finder, the school district said that in the first year of the proposed contact, the district lost $8.4 million in funding, but did not lay off any teachers.

“For the Bayonne Board of Education, the economic circumstances surrounding this year’s negotiation marathon can only be compared to the perfect storm,” the report said. “While funding declined cumulatively by $23 million, enrollment increased by 312 students, requiring the board to increase its teaching staff by 49 certified staff members.”

At the same time, the board had estimated a reduction in teachers’ salaries due to retirements and other factors by $3 million. This did not happen, school officials said.

The Board also concluded that taxpayers could not afford the increase that would be required to meet the teachers’ demand.

The Board said that a 7.86 percent increase to teachers over four years was a fair contract offer.

“The first three years of a new agreement are past,” the report said. “We can’t go back to those budgets looking for money to increase the board’s proposal. The only money available for settlement is in the 2013-2014 budget. The surplus is limited. The BOE has made it clear it is not going to spend what it doesn’t have. The board has done the right thing by not laying off teachers which has dramatically limited what we can do in negotiations.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

Comments
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proudbayonnemom
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November 18, 2013
Assassinating someone’s character on a public platform by stating someone is a drug addict, without having any supporting evidence, Is not only unethical but completely immature. I would be careful where you throw your incriminating statements before that stone gets thrown back your way.

I highly doubt someone who just completed a master’s of science, has a demanding full-time job and is now trying to dedicate his extra time to campaign for his city is a “drugie”.

I can believe that –

a) Misery loves company. You are probably so miserable in your own life and feel better about yourself if you put down others

b) You somehow feel threatened OR

c) You are just an immature and ignorant person and that’s very sad

BetterBayonne
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November 13, 2013
Mr. Zanowic said it best.

A 2% increase to the top of the administrative food chain while the Board proposes scraps for the teachers. The same board wants to suggest that "they are concerned with raising taxes," citing that is the reason they cannot commit to the promised contract of 4 years ago. Let's keep it real. The board has had no problem increasing taxes during non-election cycles to pay for administrative costs. DO NOT kid yourself, the real reason they are going back on their promise to our teachers is because they refuse to address wages and salaries at the administrative level. The Mayor and his school board have politicized this issue using fear-mongering tactics. By erroneously suggesting a contract will ultimately raise your taxes, it gives clear insight into which party is really failing to compromise here. I pledge this: I will keep this fight up until the mayor realizes it's in his best political interest to give our teachers everything they were promised. Should he fail to do what is right, my first order of business as mayor will be to fix yet another one of his broken promises.

See his post @ Facebook.com/Zanowic
JohnCupo*RealEstate
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November 13, 2013
Its now Bayonne's time to Elect for the school Board,

Upper Hudson County did it WNY overwhelmingly votes to have residents, not mayor, pick school board

Read more: Hudson Reporter - WNY overwhelmingly votes to have residents not mayor pick school board.

South Hudson County like Bayonne will do it also in May 2014.

Join Facebook "Bayonne's School Board Choice" to join.