Hundreds of teachers and supporters showed up to the Nov. 30 Board of Education meeting

Burlington Township School District teachers are advocating for a fair contract

More than 300 teachers, students and families showed up to the Nov. 30 Board of Education meeting to show their support for the Burlington Township School District teachers. The teachers have been working without a new contract since it expired June 30 and are in negotiations.

Many teachers and supporters in attendance held signs reading, “no contract, still dedicated” and “no contract, still caring.”

Board of Education President Sherry Night began the discussion with a statement from the board. Knight said the board has had discussions with the Burlington Township Education Association and feels it is on the right path to settling the contract. Knight added the board has a designated negotiation committee to work on its behalf. She concluded by reminding the attendees that board members will not respond to comments made by the public during the meeting.

BTEA President Marliese Filbert then spoke on behalf of the BTEA, pointing out that the last contract had teachers making approximately 0.5 percent below the average in Burlington County.

“As you presented to us on our first day back to school and again this evening, BTEA members are anything but below average employees,” Filbert said, referring to the presentation made by the board earlier that recognized the above-average Advanced Placement test scores in the district.

Filbert said BTEA members have made more than $1.2 million in payments to the board to offset health-care costs, and this number is set to rise to $1.65 million this year.

“These are real dollars that the board is saving and is coming directly out of our paychecks,” Filbert said.

Filbert went on to say that due to retirements, resignations and reductions in staff, the Board of Education paid out almost $900,000 less in the last contract settlement than it had informed the public it would be spending.

“In the first two years of our last contract, the board overestimated its health-care costs by more than $1.7 million,” Filbert said. “Where did this money go, and why can’t even a small portion of it be used to settle this contract?”

Resident Carolyn Sherman, who has three students enrolled in the district, said the reason Burlington Township School District is so highly-respected throughout the state is because of the quality educators.

“Every day, we hand over our most prized possessions — our children — to professionals that will nurture them, love them and educate them,” Sherman said. “Great students produce great students, great students turn into great and successful adults. We will not have great students without great teachers.”

“The teachers dedicate so much time to our students, and we are extremely grateful for them. They do everything they can to help us succeed,” said Lauren Chapman, a Burlington Township High School senior who is involved in Future Business Leaders of America, National Honors Society and Student Government. “My 14 years of school as a student would not have been nearly as successful if I didn’t have the amazing faculty.”

Chapman also said meetings and activities at the school are being cancelled due to the absence of teacher contracts, which could in turn affect college opportunities for the students.

Senior Sean Musterer also said he does not believe that it’s the students’ place to talk about the financial aspects of the negotiations. Instead, Musterer said students should share how the teachers have affected the students.

Musterer spoke on his high Advanced Placement test scores and how he could not have gotten there without the help of his teachers, and not just in class — Musterer’s teachers were willing to meet with him during their lunch hours and after school as well.

He also spoke on a personal level of how his teachers have helped him during tough times.

“I emailed a teacher at one o’clock in the morning asking for help because I felt alone. And she answered,” Musterer said.

Musterer is involved with Student Government, Future Business Leaders of America and Key Club at Burlington Township High School. He hated history when he came to the high school, but now wants to attend college to study political science and become a lawyer.

“These teachers have impacted me personally and showed me what I love to do,” Musterer said. “They deserve the world for that.”

The next meeting to discuss contracts is scheduled for Dec. 15, however, the Filbert requested the board meet with the BTEA before then to discuss further.