The first regular meeting of the Jersey City Board of Education in 2015 was 2014 all over again, as Jersey City Education Association President Ronnie Greco and former JCBOE President Sangeeta Ranade clashed over the teacher’s contract to cheers and jeers from the crowd.
Greco said that while he was optimistic for what he claimed was the first meeting with the board and mediator from the Public Relations Employment Commission (PERC) over a week ago, it was essentially a waste of a day. A few of his claims from the meeting were:
– He was surprised by the tone of the meeting and the presence of a “labor relations consultant” at the first mediation session, but that “we have consultants too.”
– He said that he brought four major proposals to the meeting, but that they we’re “nickel-and-diming” him.
– He felt that the he didn’t “see any intention to settle a contract” from the board.
– Not only was it “a waste of a day,” but according to Greco the meeting was free of charge from PERC. He added that the union and district would have to split the cost for future sessions.
– The “mediator was clearly aggravated and ended the session early” which ended at 3:30 PM, but was supposed to go until 6:00 PM, according to Greco.
– He told the board to “ get your five biggest proposals, come to the table, and let’s do this,” in regards to the upcoming February 10th, 2015 mediation session.
– Greco said the JCEA was “not gonna talk and waste time with nonsense proposals, and everyone’s frozen for a hundred years on the salary guide.”
In addition, Greco delivered an estimated 4,000 grievance letters to the Jersey City Board of Education in response to the district’s decision to reprimand teachers for protesting the change in start time to Report Card Night.
Ranade said the board didn’t want to fire quality teachers because of an expensive contract, adding that a public report will be released about the negotiations following the February 10th meeting. A few of her claims were:
– She said the session was the second of three meetings with the mediator, with the first occurring in December 2014. Ranade claimed that the union cancelled multiple meetings between August and November.
– Ranade said when the last contract was approved “there was a 15% raise in there, and shortly thereafter there were layoffs.”
– Ranade incorrectly stated, “the school district in Trenton just announced today that they were laying off 350 people.”
According to the Times of Trenton, “The Trenton school district may be forced to cut between 250 to 350 jobs next year to close a projected $19 million budget gap for the 2015-16 school year, according to the districts’ superintendent.” The article also notes that the district had to lay off more than 40 employees to close a $10 million budget gap last year.
– Ranade said the state has taken a strong stand in negotiations in districts under their control, and that “we are trying as hard as we can to negotiate this contract.” She claimed that in “Newark they negotiated merit pay, in Paterson they negotiated no increment increases without tying to performance evaluations. I think we can do better.”
As well, Ranade not only articulated her position on the contract issue, she responded to jeers from the crowd.