The Parsippany school district's paraprofessionals had no idea that their four-year quest for a contract would end Tuesday night.
But it did.
At its special Tuesday night session, the Board of Education, by a 7-2 vote, accepted a fact finder's report establishing terms for an employment contract for teachers' aides and assistants.
After a closed door meeting during which most energy was spent on the Superintendent Seitz contract, many residents in the audience were surprised when board member Anthony Mancuso reintroduced a motion he had made June 28 to accept a fact finder's report regarding the paraprofessionals' contract.
The move, Mancuso said, was motivated by his desire to see the Parsippany-Troy Hills Educational Support Association, the union that represents school paraprofessionals, receive a contract after four years without one.
Under the terms of the report, the paraprofessionals would get two three-year contracts that would give teacher's aides and assistants 3 percent raises covering the school years 2007-08 and 2008-09, 2 percent raises for 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13, and no raise at all in 2010-11. In addition, paraprofessionals would continue to be excluded from receiving health care benefits.
The paraprofessionals, who have never had a contract during the four years of their union's existence, decided to accept the fact finder's report even though it gives them far less than they had hoped.
Last night, the board finally accepted the report too. The two dissenting votes came from member Michael Strumolo and Co-Vice President Susy Golderer.
"Due to the economy, I can't in good conscience vote for retroactive pay," Strumolo explained, adding that he supports and respects the school workers.
Golderer also praised the paraprofessionals, but said that she could not support anything that could raise taxes.
"Any increase means an increase for taxpayers, and I cannot vote in favor of that," she said.
Mancuso noted with disappointment that of the residents who came to the Board of Education to wait for two hours while private discussions took place, none were paraprofessionals.
Vickie Walsh of the New Jersey Educational Association said that's because no one knew that the paraprofessional contract would be discussed during the special session.
"We were not notified," she said. "I was under the understanding that the subject was limited to Dr. Seitz's contract. There was no lack of interest on the paraprofessionals' part. If we had known, we would have been there to thank him personally.
"I find it quite amazing that they accepted the fact finder's report," Walsh said. "I'm happy. It's been a long time coming."
The union leader noted that she has spoken with some paraprofessionals and that they are "excited and happy" as well.
Walsh said she now will focus on upcoming negotiations involving contract renegotiations for school secretaries and teachers.