Paterson Education Fund Director: School Officials Pleased with New Teacher Contracts

In just one week, New Jersey’s schools open their doors and in Paterson six schools will have new principals and every teacher will have a new contract. The new contracts will include merit pay for top teachers and an out for teachers who don’t want to be ranked by performance. Paterson Education Fund Executive Director Rosie Grant told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that it took a while to reach an agreement but the school officials are pleased.

“It took a long time to get there but we’re pleased that we got there,” said Grant. “The seasoned teachers have an option of opting into this new contract or staying with the contract that they’ve had, which allows for pay advances with lateral movement. This new contract is based on teacher ranking as effective, highly effective or partial and the teachers that rank on the top get to move two tiers. If you’re effective, you move one tier.”

With the new contract, teachers would be paid more depending on how good they are, according to Grant.

While negotiations occurred, Grant said that she had heard some push back from teachers who thought they weren’t consulted enough.

Whether the new contracts will have an impact on teacher effectiveness, Grant said that she does not know. Grant also said that there are other factors that feed into whether or not a teacher is effective in the classroom.

“It certainly will have an impact on teacher morale because the teachers have been feeling not very appreciated, having waited four years for the contract,” Grant said. “So my perspective as a community person and advocate in Paterson, I’m just really pleased that they’ve gotten to a settlement and we have a contract and now we can focus on educating the kids.”

Grant said that the evaluation system used to rank teachers is complex and that teachers are being ranked by their peers, principals and other administrators. She also said that time on the job counts in the evaluation, as well as performance.

Grant said that she sees that the system could work as a model for other school districts. She also thinks that since the district negotiated with the union, it should work well.

For the upcoming school year, Paterson schools will begin to offer “Breakfast after the Bell” which will give each student breakfast after the school bell and before learning starts. Grant said that the Paterson Education Fund had been advocating for the program.

Grant said that many students had been going to school hungry and that many of them live below the poverty level.

“Under this federal program, the district will get reimbursed for feeding every child breakfast after the bell,” said Grant. “All the kids get fed because we have enough kids qualify and I think it will improve learning. When kids are hungry, they don’t learn.”

Grant said that she is pleased with the breakfast program.

“So we’re really pleased that we’re going to do this for after the bell and it also includes school lunch for every child and it is reimbursed by the federal government,” Grant said.