RIDGEWOOD, N.J. – Ridgewood teachers will meet next Wednesday to discuss a state-appointed fact-finder’s recommendations in their year-long contract negotiations.
“We just got Joel Weisblatt’s report last week,” said Laura Davina Grasso, negotiations chair for the Ridgewood Education Association.
Most likely, she added, the report will be made public next week, per state law.
The union is discussing its options to prepare for the meeting with the membership, according to Grasso.
“We’ll explain what parts we like, what parts we don’t,” she said. “We will, at that point, have our decision on whether we’re going to accept or refuse it.
"Right now, we’re digesting the report and how it will help or hurt the welfare of our 540 members.”
In the meantime, more and more “Support Ridgewood Teachers” signs are cropping up on lawns across the village.
They haven’t escaped the notice of Schools Superintendent Daniel Fishbein.
“I live in the community and do see the signs,” he said. “I know that everyone in Ridgewood supports our teachers and secretaries because they are excellent at what they do.”
Like others in the village, Fishbein has heard rumors that teachers at the high school are saying they may not be advising clubs next year if there is still no contract.
“That would be unfortunate for the students who will miss these opportunities,” he said, “and for the teachers who will miss the opportunity to be paid for advising the clubs.”
Teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2015. Talks are stalled over three main points. Teachers want a pay raise of at least 2.8 percent, the county average. They also want to retain, not diminish, all the benefits they presently have with the state health plan.
Lastly, they want to lower the rate of contribution experienced teachers pay toward their health care premium. Increases in these contributions, they say, exceed any increase they receive in salary.
If one or both sides don’t accept Weisblatt’s recommendations, the next step will be super conciliation. That means the district will be assigned another mediator by the Public Employment Relations Commission.
If there’s still no contract in September, Grasso said, it’s easy to presume there will be “a scaling back of things,” including club activities.