Teachers Passing on Recommendation Requests
Fair Lawn High School parents are concerned that teachers are taking out their contract dispute on students
Many Fair Lawn High School seniors had their worst fears confirmed Tuesday when they asked teachers for college letters of recommendation and were rebuffed.
“There is a very consistent response from the teachers,” parent Patti Lakin said. “They’re reading a prepared statement to the kids. It’s obvious they’re being told to say it.”
Although Fair Lawn Education Association president Gene Kuffel said last month that he was not responsible for issuing such a directive, parents assume that the resistance to write letters for students is a negotiating tactic brought down from the union leadership.
Teachers have been working with an expired contract since last June and would like to speed up new contract negotiations. Under their current contract, they are not required to write recommendation letters for students.
Lakin and a half dozen other incensed parents of FLHS seniors attended Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting to air their displeasure with the situation. The group of parents, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had heard from their own children and classmates of their children about the concerted teacher response.
One parent read a message from a student:
“I asked two teachers today and both said they remembered that I spoke to them,” the message begins. “One physically wrote my name on a list and the other said that hopefully once this whole thing was over, he’d be more than happy to write me [a recommendation].”
The parents are concerned that without letters of recommendations, colleges will pass on their children. Some schools require early action admission packets to be turned in as soon as Sept. 30. Without a recommendation, parents said that colleges consider the admission packet incomplete.
While the parents said they previously had sympathized with the teachers over their contract situation, a few made known that their support was drying up now that their actions were directly hurting kids.
“As a senior parent we’re here to get our kids into college now,” one father said. “If they’re jeopardizing that, I don’t think anything else matters.”
“They’re using this as a tactic to get everybody’s attention,” a mother added. “And, you know what, you’ve got our attention. But because you’re using our kids as pawns, you don’t have our support. What a simple way to lose support. Completely. 100 percent.”
Parents said some of the same students now being denied recommendations actually marched outside last year in solidarity with the teachers, and now feel shocked and let down.
“It’s a slap in the face,” one father said.
Even if the teachers change their tune eventually, parents worry that it won’t be soon enough.
Lakin said she feared that if teachers were forced to churn out numerous recommendation letters just prior to application deadlines, that they would end up more like generic form letters than the personalized, poised letters students expect from their teachers.
Another parent said he felt he was being cheated financially, because even if ultimately accepted, his child might not receive precious scholarship money that schools sometimes dole out on a first-come first-serve basis.
The parents said they would be bringing the issue before teachers at Thursday’s Back to School Night event.