Princeton School Board and PREA Both Need to Compromise and End Their Impasse
To the Editor:
As a parent with children in the Princeton Public Schools I have watched with deepening concern over the past several months as the contract dispute between the School Board and PREA, the teachers union, has festered. Without a new contract, teachers are now refusing, in many cases, to conduct after-school activities they have traditionally supported. Cherished programs at the schools are in jeopardy of being cancelled or delayed for lack of teacher participation – The annual 5th grade trip Gettysburg, this fall’s 8th grade trip to Washington, the middle school’s participation in the high school’s own Jazz Festival to name just a few. And yet I have no understanding of specifically what the two sides are fighting about. Nor do any of the other parents I’ve spoken. To try to learn more I attended last week’s School Board meeting and came away utterly dismayed. My impression was of a School Board hunkering down and convinced of its positions without feeling the need to explain itself to the community. And of teachers who, in their anger, have backed themselves into a corner from which they now cannot or will not back down. With both sides seeming to be more interested in brinksmanship and ‘winning’ it is our children who are losing.
I would have some sympathy for the School Board if it had done a better job articulating what the issues were at the outset. I could understand if, at a time of growing healthcare costs, expanding enrollment and limited budget resources, they need the teachers to make certain sacrifices. But if the Board members think they have communicated what this means in practical terms, I can assure them the message has not gotten through to the people who elected them – at least none that I’ve spoken to.
I would have more sympathy for the teachers too. An affluent School District like Princeton should be able to treat it teachers well and, if sacrifices are needed, it should have the courtesy of making them transparent enough for the whole community to understand and weigh against the tax increases needed to avert them before they are decided. But if the teachers thought that their refusal to support after-school activities would bring attention to their plight and pressure on the Board to end the impasse, they are also alienating many parents in the process – the very group they need support from most. So, in the end, I don’t have much sympathy for either side in this mess. But I do have growing exasperation at the inability of both sides — over the course of nearly a year of talks — to find the compromises that invariably will be needed from both the Board and PREA to reach resolution. I understand that representatives will be meeting this Thursday for direct discussions for the first time in months. I urge both sides, for the sake of the children in our schools, to COMPROMISE and REACH A LASTING AGREEMENT. If it doesn’t happen soon, the damage to our prized school system will grow exponentially. Enough damage has already been done. It needs to stop now.
Time for School Board and Teachers Union to End Dispute
To the Editor:
We, the undersigned, are parents and members of the Princeton community. We are writing to urge members of the Board of Education and the teacher’s union (PREA) to end the almost year-long contract dispute that has been going on between the two parties. The PREA and Board of Education will be meeting again, face to face on Thursday, March 26. They have not met face to face in months. As the participants sit down to negotiate, we ask that both sides keep in mind the values of this community when bargaining. We are ALL stakeholders in the outcome of these meetings. So many of us moved here because of the stellar reputation of the school system. Historically, it has been a district where teachers were respected for their experience and knowledge and their commitment to our children and Princeton schools.
We implore both the Board of Education and the PREA to keep our children in mind during their meetings, and consider how the lack of a resolution has adversely affected them. Princeton is a community which treasures its public school system and its teachers. We want our spring activities back. This includes the Gettysburg trips, spring concerts and AP review sessions, so that every child gets to experience the amazing opportunities that Princeton schools have to offer. A positive outcome to the negotiations can still be achieved in time to salvage the rest of the school year for all our children. We hope that both parties approach the negotiations on Thursday seeking an end and not a win.
Sarah Lewis Smith
Jane Manners & John Collins
Janice Fine & David Donnelly
Inkyung K. Yi