N.J. Teachers Agree To Suspend Letter-Writing Boycott

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Teachers in Verona, N.J., have headed off a court battle by reversing their decision to boycott writing recommendation letters for college-bound students.

But as contract negotiations continued last week in the 1,550-student district, teachers said they would limit their participation in other voluntary activities such as extracurricular projects.

"People sometimes have to be reminded of all that teachers do on their own time," said Pamela Klesch, a New Jersey Education Association field representative who works with the district.

Unusual Legal Threat

The teachers had vowed to cease voluntary activities--including writing college recommendation letters--as a means of protest while the union negotiated with the school district over pay issues. Teachers argued that the pay in the affluent district lags behind that in similar districts around the state.

But after teachers called a halt to writing recommendations, the district threatened to seek a restraining order to prevent the boycott. The teachers acquiesced on Oct. 13, and, according to Ms. Klesch, the teachers and the district officials finished a bargaining session last week "on a pleasant note."

The recommendation-writing boycott would have affected only about eight students out of the district's 420 high school students, Ms. Klesch added.

The tactic of refraining from voluntary activities has appeared more frequently during contract negotiations around the country in recent years.

But the Verona district's threat of filing a restraining order is a relatively unusual step. Ms. Klesch said a similar action earlier this month by the nearby Madison, N.J., district prompted Verona officials to act.

Superintendent Lawrence S. Feinsod of the 1,800-student Madison district said school officials there won a temporary injunction requiring teachers to write college recommendation letters.

Vol. 15, Issue 08

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