NBC10.com - Deanna Durante
A contract dispute is causing teachers in a Camden County town to refuse to participate in Back to School Night and other school activities. NBC10's Deanna Durante speaks to those on both sides of the issue as well as frustrated parents.
Frustration is the current mood for Waterford Township. Teachers in the Camden County town are frustrated by the lack of a contract and parents are frustrated that they won’t be able to meet those teachers during Back to School Night.
The 94 teachers in the Waterford Township School District say they are now going into their third school year in a row without a contract. As a result, the teachers are refusing to participate in Back to School Night and extracurricular activities at Atco Elementary, Waterford Elementary and Thomas Richards School until new contracts are signed.
While members of the teachers union won’t go into detail on what the sticking points are, officials with the school district say the main issue is the amount new teachers receive in salary increases compared to what veteran teachers receive.
“We have a letter from the association that states they will not be attending any of the Back to School Nights until their contract is resolved,” said Newlin Schoener, the Superintendent of Waterford Public Schools. “To me, it’s unacceptable.”
Schoener sent a letter to parents of students announcing that Back to School Night was postponed. He also claimed in the letter that the teachers’ refusal to attend was a violation of their contract. Dawn Agoston, a Waterford Township teacher, disagrees.
“There are specific job duties outlined in our contract,” she said. “Back to School Night is not. There are no words to Back to School Night in our contract.”
Kelly Wright, a parent of a Waterford Elementary School student, says the conflict is frustrating for all parents.
“I think it’s upsetting because I think it takes away from the kids and they want the parents’ support but I think it’s going to end up hurting them,” Wright said. “A lot of the parents are getting upset about it.”
Agoston insists however that students are still getting a quality education and that teachers are maintaining professional standards.
“We are still doing our job,” Agoston said.
Agoston says their refusal to attend Back to School Night is simply a move to increase awareness on their contract battle.
The contract dispute will be discussed further during a board meeting on October 16.