By Jason Scharch
For eleven months the teachers at Bergen County Academies, located in Hackensack, New Jersey, have worked without a contract. The Academies, as the school is often called, is ranked among the top academic high schools in the nation and often attract highly ranked professionals to teach at their facility. When the students realized that the situation with their teachers’ contracts was not improving they decided to speak out.
Approximately thirty-five students attended the Bergen County Freeholders meeting on March 18, wearing red and showing their loyalty to the faculty at the Academies. This silent statement had been made before during school days, starting with the teachers coordinating wearing red clothing to show their protest, and continuing with the students starting their own coordination of clothing.
Wednesday’s meeting was a chance for students and alumni alike to speak out to the Freeholders, who appoint the Board of Education members at the county-financed school. The Board of Education has met with the teachers fifteen times to discuss contract negotiations, with no resolution so far.
Brian Barone, showed his gratitude to the freeholders for their support but encouraged their intervention in the contract process. “We as alumni would like to thank you for your continued support, monetary and otherwise over the past years,” Barone continued, “ however our educational experience would not have been nearly as special to us without the faculty who are currently working without contracts.” Brian graduated from the Academies, an alumnus from the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts in 2007, and went on to study classical guitar at the Peabody Institute for Johns Hopkins University.
Eric Levin, an alumnus from the Academy for Business and Finance in 2007 said, “I am proud to say that I can flip through my cell phone and find at least a dozen of my past teacher’s cell phone numbers, I am not only proud to call them my teachers, but I feel privileged to call them my friends.” Eric is currently continuing his studies at New York University.
After the public’s time for open statements was over, most of the Freeholders took the time to express their gratitude for the involvement that the students showed in their high school. Their positive remarks included an optimistic view on the contract negotiations and promises that they would continue to work diligently on the subject.
Levin’s view on the meeting was expressed when he told The Bergen Record, "Will they listen? I'm sure they will. Will they respond? I guess we'll have to wait and see." To date the teachers are still without contracts, however students and alumni say that they will be continuing their support in whatever way possible.