Despite another meeting where Jersey City teachers pleaded for a new contract with Chapter 78 relief, the local board of education was again unable to negotiate a new deal.
“John, along with myself and all my other colleagues, have a right for affordable healthcare. This is not a privilege: we deserve healthcare that is affordable,” stated Dickinson High School Building Director Liz Donnelly, who spoke about a fellow teacher who still goes to work despite regular dialysis treatments.
“I find it disrespectful for the board of education to be so disrespectful over giving their employees the basic human right of affordable healthcare.”
Other teachers, who haven’t had a contract in place this entire school year, took an even more grim tone when standing at the podium.
“I’m wearing black today to mourn what this profession has become. As the federal and state government continues to impose horrible mandate after horrible mandate, none of which benefit our kids, who time and time again is on the front lines fighting against these old mandates: teachers,” said Erica Dubois.
BOE Trustee Amy DeGise, a teacher at the Hudson County Schools of Technology who can’t vote on the Jersey City teachers’ contract, expressed frustration with how drawn out the process has become.
“I read in this months president’s report that we’ve had eight-plus meetings and special presentations on labor negotiations, and I cannot understand, with all this time, and all of these adults in the room, why we can’t find a middle ground,” DeGise exclaimed.
The local teachers have been speaking out about working with a contract since December and were even joined by the New Jersey Education Association president in January, along with regular protests before and after school, but thus far, nothing has changed.
BOE President Sudhan Thomas assured the teachers the board is doing their best to rectify the issue, further stating that Mayor Steven Fulop and City Hall have no influence on the negotiations – despite claims to the contrary.
“Now I know there have been strong feelings and sentiments put out this evening about Mayor Fulop and while I understand the argument about the city underfunding the school district, and things like that, which I understand, this is a battle that we will fight,” Thomas responded.
“I just want to assure the members of the public here that the board is autonomous and we don’t take any instruction from Mayor Fulop and Mayor Fulop has no control over the board.”
During his recent appearance on Hudson County Review Live, Fulop said while he cannot do anything to help the negotiation process, he suggested that it’s time for an independent arbitrator to get involved.
“I think everybody wants to see a fair resolution and I think that means something fair for the teachers and the students and the taxpayers … and everybody involved in this conversation,” reiterating his previous stance that it would be disingenuous to weigh in without knowing both sides of the negotiations.
” … What I do know is that a strike helps nobody: it doesn’t help the teachers, it doesn’t help the students, it doesn’t help the parents – it’s not productive. So if they can’t get to a place that works, the right thing to do is for both sides to call an impasse, get an independent third party in there and live with the results there.”
The board took no formal action at the meeting.