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Students Quietly Add Voices to Contract Dispute

Stage first of two planned protests to keep focus on how they're impacted in ongoing labor battle.

The 20 or so students who gathered at the flagpole in front of Watchung Hills Regional's front doors, milled about and waved to friends before classes Friday. The students, mostly dressed in black, were staging a protest, albeit a quiet one, to make sure negotiators for the board of education and the teachers association know how the current impasse is affecting them.

But the students weren't unrealistic about the effect of their protest: when asked what they thought it would accomplish, most quickly said "nothing."

They then quickly began to list the problems the teachers' "work to rule" hours was causing, one girl said she hasn't been able to make up a test this week; another said she always meets with her teacher to stay ahead in her studies but can't.

"It's kind of not fair because I can't get the help I need," another girl said.

The protest was the first of two planned and organized through a Facebook page, Protest the BoE Day, with a human chain around the school planned for Monday. 

Meanwhile, inside the school, another student is working to dispell misinformation he says the students are getting. Akash Katakam, who recently organized a Young Democrats Club in the school, said his club and the Junior Statesmen of America club are working to inform students without encouraging them to "pick a side" in the protracted labor talks.

"We're not taking a specific side, but there's a lot of misinformation among the students that we're trying to clear up," he said.

He said his club is also encouraging more students to attend board of education meetings to gain more understanding of the negotiations, as well as to participate in the discussion at the meetings.

As for the protesting students, Akash noted not all of the school's students would agree with the protestors, with many having differing points of view.

"That's not the whole student body," he said.

As class time neared, the students outside gathered their backpacks and books and entered the school to heads to first period classes. Whether the protest will have any impact remains to be seen, but it's certain their concerns won't be overlooked.

Michael Coffey March 24, 2012 at 01:39 AM
OK, there you have it. Our children being affected by the teachers work cutback. That's when the lights went off for me. Now I want to know some really simple questions: Who's in charge of getting this contract negotiation done? Who are the responsible individuals representing the union and BOE? Why has it taken so long, nevermind, let's just move forward. What is the estimated date to finish this so the teachers can get a fair settlement that the taxpayers can afford. Lets get on with it. If noone from our elected officials can answer these questions or step up and get this moving well then you lose our votes in November and we'll try someone else.
Michael Coffey March 24, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Continued: Also, as you can see I don't know much about this but am learning quickly. Who hires the superintendents? Who evaluates them and what standard do they live up to. It seems like we have an issue with one of them at the HS. Why isn't this being addressed???? How much do superintendents get paid and what exactly do they do other than initimidate our teachers? These are all easy questions that I suspect the board should be able to answer. Please put this on the agenda for your upcoming meeting as the people that live in Warren and pay taxes want answers, NOW... I want to keep the teachers motivated and happy at a reasonable cost given our economy so that we can get back to normal, NOW. Not tomorrow, not in a few weeks or months. It's a disgrace that this has gone on this long and has come to this. Oh yeah, and who exactly is the arbitrator and what the hell are we waiting for? GET IT DONE!!!
Yes, It's True March 24, 2012 at 03:39 PM
How much do superintendents get paid? I'm so glad you asked! As of last year Fran was collecting $194,137. (source:http://php.app.com/edstaff/details2.php?recordID=118975)

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