Kind words aside, inaccuracies must be addressed

On behalf of the Spotswood Education Association we would like to thank Board of Education President Alan Bartlett for the kind thoughts he expressed in the article titled “It’sNotAllAboutMoney for Spotswood Teachers” that appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of the Sentinel.

We agree that Spotswood Schools’ faculty and staff do an exemplary job and have a strong commitment to our students in this community. It is also true that the Spotswood EducationAssociation(SEA)hasworked cooperatively with the Board of Education and schooladministrators to createanenvironment that fosters learning and ensures that our students knowhowdeeplywe care about them.

A dedicated group of teachers has chosen to make this district not just a mere workplace but our home.Aswe look out at the faces of our students each day, those of uswho have made the decision to stay here receive the best possible affirmation of that choice.

However, despite the kind words expressed for our teachers, there were a number of inaccuracies in the article that need to be addressed.

First, though the article correctly indicates that our starting teacher salaries are the lowest in the state, the suggestion that this situation is rectified after four or five yearsworking in the district iswrong. In fact, teachers starting their career in Spotswood must work nine years before they earn as much as teachers walking through the door on their first day inEastBrunswick,Monroe, Sayreville and more than 85 percent of the districts in this state.Nor does this situation get much better for our most veteran teachers. Our top salaries still rank among the lowest in both the county and the state, despite the fact that our teachers have already, for many years, been cooperatively working with the board on cost-savingmeasures.

Finally, the article would seemto suggest that there is nothing to be done about this situation, and that the faculty and staff have resigned themselves to that fact. This is perhaps our biggest concern. Small districts such as Spotswood have always labored under difficult circumstances. Lacking significant tax ratables, and yet too wealthy to receive the generous state aid of theAbbott districts, the financial burden of educating our students falls disproportionately on local residents. The faculty and staffmembers of the SEAunderstand this, and many of us live and pay taxes in this community as well. However, the current situation financially punishes teacherswhowork here throughout their entire careers and then into retirement.

The answer to this crisis cannot be to ignore a system that does not pay teachers a fair and reasonablewage. If the gap between our salaries and state averages continues to grow, it will become increasingly difficult to justify the decision to stay in this district. It would be naive to believe that the quality of our schools will not be eroded under these conditions.

As we enter into contract negotiations, it is our strong desire that the spirit of community and cooperation the members of our union and the board have built together will prevail.We hope that the dedication our faculty and staff have shown will be rewarded in the form of a commitment by the board and the residents of Spotswood remedying this situation. Doing so will require difficult choices and compromises fromall stakeholders, including the SEA, the board and the community. However, letting this situation continue does not honor the dedication of our teachers, itmerely takes advantage of it.

Simply expecting our teachers to resign themselves to a choice between our love of our schools and fair compensation cannot be an acceptable option for anyonewho truly cares.

Ron Panico


Martin Dempsey

Vice President Spotswood Education Assoc.