During the first meeting of the school board since the start of the new school year, teachers filled the auditorium of John F. Kennedy High School to demand a contract with their union representatives.
Some criticized the bonuses of Donnie Evans, the school’s superintendent, for improvements in test scores and graduation rates, saying much of those improvements were the direct result of good teachers expending great effort. It was asserted that while hard-working teachers expend great deal of energy and effort, it is Evans, who is reaping the rewards, while they are left without a contract. “Most of those gains are due to the hardworking members of the PEA,” said Carol Stryker, a high school teacher. ”I spend so much money to get my class room ready, but my check continues to be cut, it’s not fair sir,” said a teacher, while facing Evans directly.
“We are here again because we need a new contract, and we need it now,” said Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association, a union. Tirri pointed out the hardship teachers are suffering through as a result of not having a contract: “Every single day, I talk with people, who have told me stories about losing their homes, because they haven’t had a raise in 4 years.”
Many teachers have pointed out that if the district can spend half-million on hiring a team of outsiders in School 6, it cannot hide behind the excuse of not having enough money to give the teachers a raise. “They have yet to prove themselves here in Paterson as we do and have done day in and day out,” said Stryker of the new team at the Carroll Street school.
Members of the school board agreed with the union and the teachers in their demand for a new contract. “It pains me to have you guys come every single meeting, and to ask for what you already deserve,” said Christopher Irving, president of the school board.
Manuel Martinez, a school board member, wished to bring up a resolution that would strongly urge the State to resolve the contract issue with the teachers; however, that came to naught when other board members pointed out that capriciously doing such a thing, without in-depth discussion, would be weird because the school district negotiates the contract in partnership with the State.
“We are partners in the negotiations. Your motion is problematical on number levels,” said Jonathan Hodges. Amidst the shout and cheers of the audience, Corey Teague, a school board member, said, “It is my responsibility to fight for the teachers.”
Teague called for Chris Christie, governor of the State, and Christopher Cerf, commissioner of education, to visit Paterson and address the teachers. He said, “I think commissioner Cerf needs to come to Paterson.”