After months of hostility, the West New York Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding for an over $62 million, four-year retroactive teachers contract.
In a special meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes with less than a dozen non-district employees in the crowd, the BOE approved the measure by a vote of 5-0(3), with Trustees Jonathan Castaneda, Lorena Portillo and Adam Parkinson abstaining. Trustee Matthew Cheng was absent.
“On this board, we have to make a lot of decisions that impact the lives of over 8,500 students, our employees, and that’s why we got elected: to get on this board, to vote on these items, to vote on important contracts that affect all of our employees – especially this one,” said Trustee Steven Rodas, the chair of the BOE’s negotiations committee.
“This one is the biggest contract, it’s about over $62 million plus. It affects our teachers, our custodians, our bus drivers, our paraprofessionals, as well as their family members. So I just wanted to say it was a pleasure to serve as the chair of this committee,” he added commending the efforts of the West New York Education Association.
Trustees Denise Mejia and Silvio Acosta also sat on the negotiations committee.
“Negotiations are inherently strenuous and we just want to thank you for this patience. We know you understand that even though people tried to hijack our democracy at the last meeting, that we came through and I’m so happy for that,” stated Castaneda.
Earlier this month, hundreds of West New York teachers took over a chaotic BOE meeting as they continued to demand a new contract, something they had been without since July 1, 2015.
At the meeting, Cheng and Portillo both walked out of the meeting before the board entered closed session. Portillo was late to the meeting and therefore did not actually vote on any measures in front of the governing body.
“This board of education, I couldn’t be more proud of to serve as this board’s president. And … I really am very proud of this board their good decision making tonight,” said BOE President Adam Parkinson, whose mother is a teacher in the West New York school district and therefore could not vote on any contract related measures.
West New York Education Association President Anita Kober, who led protests as negotiations appeared to be at a standstill in the spring, thanked the board for doing their part in bringing this matter to a conclusion.
However, she noted that the WNYEA must approve the offer on the table before the contract is official.
For this reason, she declined to comment after the meeting beyond clarifying that the offer would be a retroactive, four-year deal from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019.