Saving Art & Music: RPEA Agreement Article 10(D)(1)

Art and music. Both are considered non-essentials in public school education, but for many students as well as parents, they are a fundamental component of a well-rounded education; as important as math or language or sports.

In the last couple of years, art and music in Roselle Park elementary schools have turned from a matter of education to a negotiation between the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE) and the Roselle Park Education Association (RPEA).

Parents . . . let the district know that are upset about the changes in their children’s class schedules

Starting in September of the 2017-18 school year – almost right after school started – art and music classes were shortened by about 10 minutes. Students and teachers know that time is crucial, even more so than many other studies. There is the time need to set up a musical instrument or an easel or other relevant material, and then there is the time at the end of class to put them all away. Just doing those things takes a couple of minutes which lessens the instruction time. Cut a 40-minute class by 10 minutes and the learning period is cut by one-third from half-an-hour to 20 minutes.

The reduction in time was due to Article 10, section D, sub-section 1 of the 2015-2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the BOE and RPEA which read:

“Elementary classroom teachers: Seven (7) periods per week. A period is considered to be of at least thirty (30) minutes.”

Previous contracts had five (5) prep periods of at least 30 minutes. Then, as a result of the 2015-18 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations, teachers in the elementary schools – EJF/Aldene, Robert Gordon, and Sherman – had time allotted for classroom preparation, known as prep periods, was increased from five (5) to seven (7) periods a week.

Even though this change was in effect since September 2015, it seemed that no one noticed it enough to have it enforced. At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, it somehow was brought to the attention of the RPEA that the seven prep periods were not being followed. Once brought to the Roselle Park School District’s (RPSD) administration, the decision was to adhere to the contract. The only other option to return to five prep periods was to renegotiate the contract.

That never happened.

But there is some possible good news . . . the RPEA 2018-2021 contract has . . . not been finalized and ratified.

Then the 2018-2021 RPEA CBA negotiations, the provision was part of negotiations. After months of going back and forth between the school board the teachers’ union, nothing changed. During negotiations, the BOE proposed four prep periods but then went back to the original five. The RPEA stuck to seven prep periods. In the end, seven prep periods remained, which meant there would be less instructional time for students without any clear reason as to why from the RPEA other than ‘once you give something to teachers, they’re not going to give it back.’

It was such a point of contention that BOE member Troy Gerten, a member of the negotiation committee for the school board, addressed the prep periods at an October BOE meeting. He said, in part, “Despite the board’s efforts, a change in the contract language that would affect the art classes could not be included in the party settlement.”

Parents since October of last year to last month at school board meetings have let the district know that are upset about the changes in their children’s class schedules and have stressed the importance of classroom time for the benefit of students.

A very basic breakdown of total instruction time for two (2) scenarios – five and seven prep periods – is included below. Five (5) 30-minute prep periods would have 25 hours and 50 minutes of available instruction time. Seven (7) prep periods would give 24 hours and 50 minutes of classroom instruction.

Click each image for full view

But there is some possible good news.

Even though the RPEA 2018-2021 contract has been approved by the school board, it has not been finalized and ratified. The BOE even stated that the agreement can still be negotiated until it is ratified.

So this issue of bringing art & music classes to their original instruction time might still be able to be changed in the coming year.

Parents just need to attend BOE meetings, starting with the January 8th school board meeting which will take place at Roselle Park Middle School starting at 7 p.m. They can attend and let their concerns be known and let the school district – both the educators and the administration – that the CBA should be negotiated to five prep periods.

A full schedule of school board meetings can be accessed at the RPSD website (link).