.
News Alert
UPDATE: Massive Berkeley Brush Fire Nearly…

Teachers Union Takes Stand at Board of Ed Meeting

Teachers came out in full force Thursday to speak out about the pace of contract negotiations with the Board of Education

At last month’s Board of Education meeting, while high school parents and school board members offered rebuke after stinging rebuke to , FLEA president Gene Kuffel sat quietly alone toward the back of the room and took it.

The tables were turned Thursday when a sea of Fair Lawn teachers fed-up with contract negotiations descended on Edison School and forced a move of the Board of Education meeting from Room 19 to the school's gymnasium to accommodate the crowd.

Without enough chairs to seat the almost 200 people who came out Thursday, dozens sat on the floor or stood around the gym’s perimeter. 

This time, Kuffel sat in the front row, surrounded by colleagues and eager to speak for them.

When the floor opened for public comment, Kuffel read a prepared speech castigating the Board of Education for the lack of progress being made on contract negotiations and for previously questioning the teachers’ dedication to their students. The speech, which lasted almost 10 minutes, was repeatedly interrupted by loud standing applause by the teachers in attendance.

“We hear you, our Board of Education, say how you have been treated unfairly by the governor over the past two years,” Kuffel said during his speech, referring to deep state education cuts, “yet it’s your actions to prolong negotiations that speak even louder than the governor’s words.”

“At last month’s Board of Education meeting, you said you were appalled by your teachers for fulfilling their expired contractual obligation,” he continued. “I don’t quite understand the concept behind this and why you were so upset. If I were to hire a company to install a carpet, should I be upset that they don’t paint the walls? No. You should be appalled, but with yourselves for prolonging negotiations.”

Kuffel then got down to the apparent sticking point in negotiations, health care premiums. He said that FLEA had offered an insurance plan that would save more than $1 million each year in premiums, but which had been refused by the Board.

“You continue to push a health insurance plan that is an unnecessary financial burden to the taxpayers and teachers,” Kuffel said. “In most cases as a result of your insurance proposal, teachers will never make more money than they did last year. Ever.”

Kuffel then called out board president Michael Rosenberg directly.

“I am ashamed of public school teachers in other districts who have such blatant disregard and disrespect for their colleagues here in Fair Lawn,” Kuffel said of Rosenberg, who teaches in the Hillsdale School District. “It is unforgivable to have a board president say that he doesn’t respect their teachers, which is what you said, Mr. Rosenberg, at last month’s Board of Education meeting.

“Before you say something like that,” Kuffel continued, “please remember that these teachers who you say you don’t respect, produce a 99 percent success rate of Fair Lawn students who go on to attend post-secondary education at colleges, universities, trade schools and the military. Remember that our high school AP success rate exceeds that of New Jersey, which has the highest scores in the nation.”

Kuffel concluded by stating that he had a clear conscience and wanted nothing more than a fair contract for Fair Lawn teachers.

“As a math teacher, my vocation tells me that numbers don’t lie,” he said in closing. “The Fair Lawn Education Association is trying to save you more than $1 million in annual health insurance premiums and we’re being targeted as the bad guy? The numbers don’t add up.”

Board President Rosenberg clarified the comments he made about Fair Lawn teachers last month, and explained that they had been taken out of context.

“My comments last month were about high school recommendations that the Fair Lawn Education Association decided they weren’t going to do,” Rosenberg said. “There were parents in the audience that asked questions about it and unfortunately, yes, that affects every one of us. That affects everybody in Fair Lawn if the Fair Lawn Education Association is not willing to do those recommendations, because it affects our students getting into colleges.”

Rosenberg said he had never otherwise spoken negatively about any of the work that Fair Lawn teachers do.

“As a matter of fact, I go out of my way, as the record has proven, to say what wonderful things Fair Lawn teachers do and accomplish every day,” he said. “And you do. The Fair Lawn teachers are the best, I think.  The best in the county, the best in the state, and I really hope that we can come to an agreement soon.”

No sort of agreement appeared close last night.

Eugene Banta, lead negotiator for the Board of Ed, said they disagree with the extent of savings the teacher’s proposed plan offers.

“We don’t agree with the numbers,” Banta said of the $1 million savings figured touted by Kuffel. “It’s as simple as that.”

Banta said the Board would meet next month with a fact finder on Nov. 30, and also with their insurance professionals, for the fourth time.

One resident and retired educator, Martin Lasus, who spoke publicly on behalf of the teachers, wondered why negotiations were moving so slowly.

“Did it take a formal meeting for you (Banta) to tell him (Kuffel) that his numbers don’t jibe? Couldn’t you sit down with him and show him how you prove his numbers wrong?” Lasus asked Banta. “This doesn’t make sense why it’s taking so long to work this out.”

Fair Lawn teachers have been working under an expired contract since June 30, 2010.

--

Here is the full transcript of Gene Kuffel's speech to the Board of Education:

"Teaching is both a vocation and avocation.  For those of us who actually teach, the challenges and joys of being a teacher is one we eagerly accept with dignity, pride and dedication. As teachers, we have earned the proper degree, certification, credentials and take additional training needed to educate a classroom of students.

As an avocation, we are called to teach from the depths of our souls in an effort to give our youth the skills needed to be independent thinkers, to handle with confidence life’s challenges and joys, and the character to graciously accept life’s rewards.

Not everyone can be a teacher and not everyone is good enough to be a Fair Lawn teacher. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel internationally where I am honored to say that I am a teacher. You see in another country, I’m looked upon and treated with the utmost respect because I’m a teacher. Something I’m unlikely to find in my own backyard or even a Board of Education meeting.

Yet teaching is also a vocation. It’s a means of financial support to provide for ourselves and our families. We simply ask to be among the middle class.

Unfortunately, our governor and some state lawmakers have decided to blame the state’s middle class workers for New Jersey’s financial problems. I get that teachers, police officers and paid firefighters are easy targets to pinpoint the blame and there are a lot of uninformed individuals out there who believe this and feed both into and off of this tactical approach.

But we aren’t the problem. We never were the problem. I guess the governor had to blame someone other than his wife for the state’s financial woes.  After all, she’s one of the Wall Street investment brokers who created our financial crisis while making over a half a million dollars a year working part time, and that doesn’t include her bonuses.

What’s worse than the governor’s words over the past two years, are the actions by those who are eager to jump on the Chris Christie bandwagon. We hear you, our Board of Education, say how you have been treated unfairly by the governor over the past two years, yet it’s your actions to prolong negotiations that speak even louder than the governor’s words.

At last month’s Board of Education meeting, you said you were appalled by your teachers for fulfilling their expired contractual obligation. I don’t quite understand the concept behind this and why you were so upset.

If I were to hire a company to install a carpet, should I be upset that they don’t pain the walls? No. You should be appalled, but with yourselves for prolonging negotiations. You have used your teachers as pawns. Worse than that, you continue to use their children as pawns and this is not cute.

The Fair Lawn Education Association has offered an insurance plan that provides more than $1 million in annual insurance premium savings. Numbers don’t lie. So far you have refused to accept this offer.

Instead you continue to push a health insurance plan that is an unnecessary financial burden to the taxpayers and teachers. In most cases as a result of your insurance proposal, teachers will never make more money than they did last year. Ever.

Anyone with foresight should be able to see that the future of education is in grave danger. Who will we get to teach our students if those charged with their education can’t ever get a financial footing to provide for themselves, afford to have a family or even fulfill the dream of being a homeowner?

This brings most of our members to tears. Yet you are still asking taxpayers and teachers to pay more in annual insurance premiums to the same insurance plan, and those are the words from your insurance broker, that they are the same plan.

According to my calculations, some of our teachers could easily be paying upwards of $10,000 extra in health insurance contributions in the next four years for your proposed health insurance plan over our proposal.

If anyone should be appalled it should be the taxpayers and teaching staff who aren’t provided with having an affordable insurance plan.

Our ad in the Community News last week speaks for itself.  At last month’s Board of Education meeting, a board member asked how we can sleep at night. While I greatly appreciate your concern, but the truth be told, it’s not easy to sleep at night.

It’s sometimes difficult for Fair Lawn teachers to sleep as they worry about how they’ll pay the mortgage, utility and food since they may never make more than they did last year. Our teachers have difficulty sleeping as they worry whether or not the copy machine will be working in the morning so students have the resources (inaudible due to loud applause).

Or how they’ll pay for the copies they had to make at Staples because the copiers didn’t work (Applause).

And they also lose sleep wondering how they’ll effectively teach curriculum without having the necessary computer programs installed two months into the school year.

Teachers in Fair Lawn are justifiably afraid they are going to be required to once again pay for ancillary benefits again. Thus, difficulty sleeping.

Teachers may not be sleeping because they fear their student learning is impacted by the loss of librarians in the elementary schools (Applause).

Not to mention the reduction of elementary art and music programs (Applause).

And teachers may not be sleeping at night because they’re too busy planning lessons derived from increased curriculum demands that cannot be done in the course of two hours of planning per week (Applause).

And let’s not forget those teachers who are not sleeping at night because they spend upwards of two to five hours writing each college recommendation letter for students (Applause).

In recent years, one teacher spent more than 100 hours writing college recommendations. That equates to two-and-a-half 40-hour work weeks.

I am a teacher. I am also a member of NJEA. I am ashamed. I am ashamed of public school teachers in other districts who have such blatant disregard and disrespect for their colleagues here in Fair Lawn. It is unforgivable to have a board president say that he doesn’t respect their teachers, which is what you said Mr. Rosenberg at last month’s Board of Education meeting. (Long applause and cheering).

Before you say something like that, please remember that these teachers who you say you don’t respect, produce a 99 percent success rate of Fair Lawn students who go on to attend post-secondary education at colleges, universities, trade schools and the military. Remember that our high school AP success rate exceeds that of New Jersey, which has the highest scores in the nation.

And remember, we are the ones who educate your children. I have a clear conscience because I know I honestly and honorably advocate for nothing more than a fair contract for our members and still try to save your taxpayers money. I am one of the priceless professionals offering millions in savings.

To the parents and taxpayers of Fair Lawn, I started out by saying that teaching is both a vocation and an avocation. I love what I do educating your children to achieve academic, social and emotional excellence. This is my avocation. As a math teacher, my vocation tells me that numbers don’t lie. The Fair Lawn Education Association is trying to save you more than $1 million in annual health insurance premiums and we’re being targeted as the bad guy? The numbers don’t add up. (Loud applause and cheering).

Mike October 24, 2011 at 01:24 AM
@Alla: FYI, public workers also pay into SS and Medicare; your post claims otherwise, thus catapulting the propaganda. I believe if he were a man of principle, he would have found a job, any job, that was non-union and non-gummint. I will agree that in some union environments, strong performance is under-rewarded. I will also say that if a student doesn't like her grade and decides to say "Mr Smith grabbed my ass" I'd sure want a union defending me (actually, tenure helps, too, since a non-tenured teacher would be dismissed on the spot without any due process). And if you think such false accusations don't happen, you are wrong. Said man also has done absolutely nothing to help change the system he so hates; never been to a town meeting, I don't even think he votes. I suppose someone who's anti-abortion and works at an abortion clinic would likewise not be a hypocrite? Indirectly reminds me of a parent who complained that the school budget was bloated, wasteful, and secretive, and he was voting it down. I asked if he looked at the check register, budget details, etc., that were on the web site, and if he had, to point out the waste. He chortled, "I don't have time for that!" and stormed away, realizing that his claim was based on hearsay. BTW, he had a strong financial background and could have volunteered to help ferret out the waste. I also know a public school teacher whose kids went to Catholic schools because public schools were so immoral.
SK October 24, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Funny how the grass is always greener on the other side. Likewise, if your job is so bad, so underpaid and overwhelming switch to the private sector garden of Eden and reap the financial rewards. By the way, last week Washington DC was declared as the area with the highest median income in the country thanks to all of the politicians and lobbyists, and all of the federal employees earning compensation that averaged $126,369 last year.
Moe Larky October 24, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Truth hurts huh? Youre position i cant have what a union employee gets IS selfish!!
Paquas October 24, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Privitize the system? You would have the same mess that exists with insurance companies running the medical system. Basically that is the way that the entire education system is going-- it will be run by corporate America and they will be in it solely for the money.
SK October 24, 2011 at 08:58 AM
Yes, the government has done a great job of running social security, medicare, FNMA, social services, FEMA, the green industry investments and frankly every thing they touch. At the rate we are going we will be turning into another Soviet Union with the government running everthing. That system lasted 70 years or and then it fell apart.
SK October 24, 2011 at 08:59 AM
I haven't seen any evidence of thinking let alone cognitive thinking from your posts. No wonder this country is such a mess.
SK October 24, 2011 at 09:03 AM
Yes, I am pining away for a union job yet it's the union screaming and yelling that they don't have enough and want the wall street salaries. They don't want the athlete or Hollywood salaries just the Wall Street ones. After all Wall Street rich are all evil rich because they don't play by the same Obama and union playbook but the Hollywood, athlete rich are great people because they parrot the same lines as the unions. Besides how would you know the truth, all you do is parrot what everyone else is saying.
Bruce Knuckle October 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Alla, why dont you go sleep on the sidewalk in NY with all of the other entitlists
Moe Larky October 24, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Wow Alla, for a person that was quick to label others as "insulters" YOU sure like to take that path. I bet youre not even from this country! Bruce is right, youre an entitlist .
SK October 24, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Wow, a cognitive thinker and a xenophobe. Try reading your history. This country was founded and populated by people from other countries.
Moe Larky October 24, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Yes im fearfull of people like yourself that want to extract the rights established and fought for by true Americans.The founding fathers did one cery important thing that you obviously cannot and that isvto renounce ALL loyalty to the contry they fled from and express love and admiration for tge newly founded Country lending full support to its Government. You choose to attack all facets of Govt including the employees and when someone calls you on it the Xenophobe word is thrown out. Since you decided to claim history as the backup, try relearning the facts surrounding the industrial revolution and the birth of unions. Read up on how hard working people from other countries who pledged their love of America were. mistreated and needed the very system you. speak against .Learn about the Manhattan shirt Company fire (one example) instead of spewing insults and hate filled crap. Bottom line if ya dont like or agree with how it works here, no one is making you stay! !!
SK October 24, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Last I recall criticisim of the government was not a crime but something called free speech. Try reading the constituion. If you can't handle opinions views or ideas different from your own then you are in the wrong country. Try moving to China, Venezuela or Iran. I hear they actually jail and even kill people who dare to criticize the Government there. Sounds like a place you might enjoy.
MOE LARKY October 24, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Opinions are one thing, you spew nonfactual garbage and as for questioning the govt ...where did that come into play?? Unfortunately you are just an unreasonable agitator
michael cassella October 25, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Alla: I have been following your comments and If anyone is intolerant of the opinions of others, it's you. Let's go back to the beginning when you were commenting on the FL teachers' union. You comment on how the teachers boo-hoo about all the extra hours that they put in beyond their contractual time and mention the fact that a lot of jobs require overtime. The one big difference in the teachers doing extra work beyond the normal hours and other jobs is that in the other jobs the workers submit a voucher and get paid for those hours. Teachers do not. In this economy, a lot of teachers have put out their own money for classroom supplies and other things to keep their classes running. I personally, (and yes, Alla, I am a Fair Lawn teacher and damn pround of it) put out over $200 of my own money so my kids would have dictionaires to use in class. As to your comment about the teachers' "entitlement attitude", we work for everything we get. Granted our stupid governor makes it sound like our pension system is robbing the state blind, but each one of us has money taken out of each paycheck for our pension. My pension deduction comes to almost $300 per check. Maybe you should listen to someone other than Governor Fat Butt. One last comment: you said to Deborah that you were glad that your children did not have her as a teacher. Well, Alla honey, I am quite sure that Deborah is also very glad that she doesn't have your kids in class either so she doesn't have to put up you!
SK October 25, 2011 at 09:44 AM
Yeah, yeah, I know anyone who doesn't agree with you or cave in to your demands is unreasonable, stupid and intolerant. Where have I heard that before. You want better contracts and higher pay and you are willing to use the kids to get it. Nothing high minded about that. By the way your pension contributions don't begin to cover the cost of the actual pensions at the time of payout. Guess who pays for the rest on top of Social Security. It is a system that nearly bankrupt two of the three US automakers until the taxpayers bailed them out as well. But no one seems to bring that up. The bottom line is you are entitled to negotiate and demand whatever terms you want and the board which represents the taxpayers is entitled to push back. It is a negotiation and a give and take. Using kids to get your terms is dirty but has been done before and I have no doubt will happen again and again.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Alla you are as shallow as a puddle in the street! You cant be so stupid as to believe the pension contributions sit in a safety deposit box somewhere waiting for a retirement to occur!!!! Obviously they are pooled together and invested where they grow, then again .You are a hater and no different than any other bigot, instead of race religon or creed you discriminate agsonst the public empolyee. Guess you have notging to do in a constructive sense!
SK October 25, 2011 at 01:27 PM
If you are the face of the public employee system, this country doesn't stand a chance.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 01:37 PM
The omission of an intelligent response says it all
SK October 25, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Hard to respond with anything intelligent to ignorant rants.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 02:46 PM
True, thats why i choose not to respond to you
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Malcolm you fail to acknowledge one important factor. The Governing body sits across the negotiation table and has AGREED to the salries and benefits you loath. These teachers arent writing their own ticket.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 04:01 PM
AND your classification of the "avg. Voter" as underpaid or ubemployed is unsupported.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 04:59 PM
My point exactly, no facts just rhetoric from you ...come on: support you statement about salaries and beni' s being so under the level of teacherd
SK October 25, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Insults and threats have worked well all these years. Why stop now.
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Thats not fact! Reference where you found these numbers Did you extract the benis from a contract ? How about the very people you claim to speak for have passed the schools budget referendum every time its put to a vote....last tome to the tune of 86 mill!!! By the way, why so interested in Fair Lawn anyways? Shouldnt you be pushin anti mall signs into the ground
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Nope not a teacher. And dont know much about roaches either, always lived in a clean environment....I guess you got to do something between unemployment checks
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 06:35 PM
By the way i looked at your " evidence links " as with all professional agitators, its incomplete. Wheres rference to the beni' s?
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Didnt think so........
MOE LARKY October 25, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Still no hard evidence on benefits....just stupid comments ..I have to take that as a concession. You dont know and dont have any facts regarding the contractual benefits, just links to general govt supplied information......The same Govt you carry on about " should be privatized" .
Bruce Knuckle October 25, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Malcom, it good to see that Mahwah accepts nitwits in their community. You must be excited with all of the colorful leaves falling in the street. .....Moe, you are correct,he presents no evidence. Must have been denied tenure a few times.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something