On October 28, members of the Hillsborough Education Association (HEA) joined together with community members, leaders, and representatives from neighboring unions to raise the question before the Hillsborough Board of Education, “What is Best for Boro?”
Over 350 audience members, most clad in blue HEA shirts, crowded the cafeteria of Auten Road School to encourage the board to recognize what is best to maintain the district’s current successes.
New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Marie Blistan spoke about the high quality of education at Hillsborough public schools including county, state and national recognitions. She also spoke of the district’s exceptional graduation and college admission rates along with the work of the HEA’s efforts to give back to the community
“You have a model district here. People have come to live here and to raise their families here. They don’t come here just for the location, or beautiful scenery, but for this public school system,” Blistan stated. “You have the control to have a quality, stable, workforce which is accomplished through contract negotiations… to not just demonstrate in words or clothes, but in action, your commitment to respect them at the same level that they dedicate their lives to the students of the Hillsborough district.”
HEA members have been working under an expired contract since July 2019. The HEA and the Hillsborough Board of education have met multiple times, yet the two parties cannot reach a settlement. They are moving toward fact finding in order to achieve a resolution.
Somerset County Education Association (SCEA) president, Dan Epstein, echoed Blistan’s accolades by saying Hillsborough is a fantastic school district; however, educators are suffering with reductions in take-home pay causing many teachers to obtain second and third jobs.
“When you have a phenomenal school district, with people who are working hard, giving so much of themselves for their students, you never know which one is having trouble making a mortgage payment, which of them is forcing their own children to go into higher student debt to maintain their college education or who is having trouble putting food on their table.” Espstein stated. “I can assure you this is happening to too many of our educators, including people in this room.”
The Hillsborough Board of Education and administration are currently holding public meetings regarding a December 10th referendum vote to address deteriorating infrastructure throughout the district.
HEA President Henry Goodhue addressed the Board’s need for the referendum to address building conditions, but also discussed the working conditions needing improvement as well.
“The conditions for our members have also worsened over recent months; but, unlike building conditions, there can be no referendum to repair the rapport between board and members. The state cannot provide 40% of the resources needed to replace our trust,” Goodhue stated. “Repairing the current state of affairs requires 100% commitment from each member of the board. You must individually evaluate the foundation upon which you are attempting to build our district’s future, taking the steps to ensure it’s the strongest possible.”
Several HEA members and community members spoke on the deteriorating building conditions, recent staff cuts, and the current negotiations crisis. HEA Second Vice-President, Elena Maucere, spoke on her optimism that both sides can return to the table to reach a deal.
“Budgets are necessary and important. Improving building conditions are necessary and important,” Maucere said. “But your people; that’s where the most important and necessary investment needs to be. I’m committed to rebuilding. Today is a brand new opportunity to move forward to prove why Hillsborough is the best.”
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