Jersey City teachers and parents peacefully protested outside Public School No. 20 during last night’s Ward A meeting, while residents inside asked Mayor Steven Fulop to intervene in their long-standing contact dispute with the school district.
The Ward A meeting is the second of Mayor’s Fulop tour of the different wards after his State of the City speech at City Hall two weeks ago.
Last week in Ward F, he went into detail about why he supports marijuana legalization and what steps the city will be taking on that front.
Yesterday evening, the ongoing teachers’ contract dispute proved to be a hot topic, with residents telling the mayor that the voters should be able to vote for the city’s superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools.
One resident, Angela Moore, explained she wasn’t advocating for the union when she challenged the mayor to use his position to resolve the ongoing issue that has been drawn out since September.
“We need you, mayor, and city council to come up with an ordinance, something, so that parents have the right to vote for a superintendent. I’m asking you to step in for the parents to do the right thing for our children,” Moore said.
In turn, the mayor said that residents’ votes do count in the current system since they elect the members of the board of education, the body that ultimately selects the superintendent.
He then addressed the charge that he’s in a position to intervene to resolve the differences between the teachers and JCPS.
“The reality is that nobody knows the nuances of what’s happening in that conversation behind closed doors because legally we cannot know, none of us know the details of what’s happening,” explained Fulop.
“So, anybody who sits here and says I’m for the teachers, I’m for the students, I’m for the parents. That’s great, so am I. I’m for all three of those, and I think all of us are. But to say anything more than that you’re kind of being disingenuous because you don’t know the details of what’s being offered by both sides.”
The mayor pointed to the city’s track record of resolving five out of six union contracts without arbitration as proof of the city’s progressive values.
He concluded the teachers’ contract discussion by reminding the residents that he has no influence over the superintendent, but his hope is that both sides reach a fair contract.
“A fair contract to me means balancing the needs of the residents of Jersey City, the teachers that work for the district, and ultimately, the students. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what either side is offering, and without knowing that, I couldn’t responsibly engage in something in a meaningful way.”
Jersey City teachers are now protesting almost daily, given that they’ve been without a contract since September and neither side seems to be budging on Chapter 78 relief.
The leadership of the JCEA has an icy relationship with Fulop, recently going after the mayor for officers ticketing drivers who honked their horns in support of the union.
The mayor’s office responded that only happened in a handful of instances where drivers “held down their horns for prolonged periods of time” after residents had complained.