After months of dispute, teachers and district find common ground

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    Sparta-Less than two days after the conclusion of the 2003-2004 school year, Sparta school teachers reached a tentative agreement with the board of education that calls for a 4.5 percent annual salary increase. For the past year, teachers have been working with expired contracts having not been able to reach an agreement with the board of education. Since December 2002, negotiations had gone nowhere until a mediator was brought in to deal with the impasse last month. Thirty-two days later, the tentative agreement was reached after overnight negotiations that lasted until 5:30 a.m. last Friday morning. The tentative agreement calls for the percentage increase in teacher salaries for each of the next three years. It will also be retroactive for the 2003-2004 school year, which just finished. "The teachers of Sparta feel a sense of relief, but some frustration that this settlement could not have been reached a year ago," said Sparta Education Association President Melva Cummings in a phone interview earlier this week. "Teachers like any other group need a feeling of security and appreciation in the often difficult job of being a teacher in our current environment." When attempted to be reached for comment, School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton declined to comment citing an agreement between the teachers and board to not disclose the details. Pamela Niles of the New Jersey Educational Association also declined to comment for the story, citing the same agreement. The association was also involved in the negotiations. "Now that the settlement has been achieved we hope that the teachers, administration, and board can work together to achieve a quality education for our students," said Cummings. Ratification of the tentative agreement is set to take place sometime in September.