Sitting on the floor at school, ten seniors gather around a panini press. They are members of PHS’s Panini Club, led by Aaron Goodman ’15. Despite not being able to meet in room 132 due to the PREA’s most recent job action, they continue to make paninis together every Monday at break.
On December 1, all Princeton Regional Education Association members withdrew from advising any clubs or activities for which they were not being compensated. As a result, various club meetings, club trips, and class field trips have been canceled in the past three weeks.
Non-Extra Pay for Extra Service activities are extracurriculars for which advisors are not compensated. Uncompensated hours include time during break, as well as hours put in before or after school.
Since clubs must have an advisor present at all club meetings, groups whose advisors are not compensated were required to stop meeting on December 1.
Many clubs, including Science Olympiad, have found a way to work around these constraints. While its official advisor, science teacher Timothy Anderson, is compensated, Science Olympiad requires a few more uncompensated teachers to help various sections of Olympiad. Science teacher Jacqueline Katz is the leader of Olympiad’s Anatomy and Physiology event and withdrew from helping the club.
“We had to plan it so that we would be done with most of our material by December 1 … [The teams] will have to meet on their own, and the information that we have not covered so far will have to be researched on their own as well, ” she said.
Katz said club leaders will have to take on greater responsibilities to prepare the teams. “I think that they can carry on; it’s just going to be a little harder … I hope they don’t lose steam by the time we are able to have official meetings again,” she said.
The members of Science Olympiad share the concern that carrying on without Katz will be a significant hindrance. “[The student leaders] know [their] stuff, but sometimes you really just need a teacher to [help] and clarify things,” said Vivian Huang ’17, who participates in Anatomy and Physiology.
PHS’s Korean Club, led by Nicole Oliver ’15, will continue to meet in school classrooms. However, because of the absence of their advisor, school psychologist Dr. David Rosenfeld, they can no longer meet in the Black Box for dance practice for the upcoming Asian Fest. “[Rosenfeld] couldn’t sign the paper … so we are not able to use it,” Oliver said. “We have been using classrooms, but a mirror is very much needed.”
Oliver believes the fact that Korean Club has chosen to continue meeting has little impact on the negotiations. “This way, we are just sneaking around a bit and avoiding the rules, not entirely [influencing negotiations],” she said.
However, some club members believe that, by continuing to conduct club business, clubs are lessening the effectiveness of this job action. “[The fact that clubs are still] functioning is not very helpful for [the PREA’s cause] because they can’t really prove their point. This is just showing that students are independent and they can still do what they want, now that there is no teacher attached,” Huang said.
While the cancellations are not ideal for anyone involved, uncompensated advisors have accepted the situation and have stepped down from their positions in hopes of expediting the negotiations. “I understand that, as a union in this situation, we have to make hard decisions, so I am willing to cooperate even though it’s hard for me to tell the students I can’t do it any longer. I hope that this will lead to a quick solution so that we can pick up where we left off sooner rather than later,” Katz said.
The PREA’s latest job action will affect not only clubs but also field trips whose hours extend past the compensated hours of the school day. The math department’s Six Flags trip set for late May and the Studio Art trip to the Metropolitan Museum on December 19 are a few of the field trips subject to cancellation should a contract agreement not be reached between the PREA and the Board of Education. Also in jeopardy are larger PHS events, including Prom and Mr. PHS.
Another issue that may cause field trip cancellation is the absence of chaperones, who are often uncompensated. “If they need more chaperones than there are people who get a stipend, they may not be able to [conduct a trip],” said PREA action team leader and French teacher Malachi Wood.
Wood is uncompensated for four clubs that he will no longer advise: the French Honors Society, Film Club, Photography Club, and the Muslim Student Association and Friends. As a result of his absence, those clubs can no longer meet or go on trips. “In the French Honors Society, I was planning to go down to Community Park with the students to teach French to kids, but we won’t be doing that,” Wood said. “There is also an induction ceremony in March for juniors that are eligible, but that won’t be happening if things aren’t resolved.”
Photography Club’s trips for later on in the year will also probably be canceled, due to the fact that members will not be able to meet beforehand and gain the necessary skills. “We wanted the [club members] to have the opportunity to [learn] about a bunch of different types of photography before we went on our trips, but now we are unsure of if we are going to be taking [those] trips,” said Photography Club Co-President Haley Clark ’15.
To show its support of the PREA’s efforts, Photography Club has agreed to stop meeting altogether. “We haven’t started our meetings up yet … because the PREA deserves our support as students,” Clark said. “[The teachers] are not getting all that they deserve. They put so much time and effort into doing things that they aren’t paid for … so it’s important that teachers stand up for themselves.”
Smash Club, led by Maddy Troilo ’17 and Nora Aguiar ’17, has also agreed to stop meeting to support the teachers. “We will not start meeting out of school until after midterms, or until the teachers get a contract, because we want to support the teacher’s efforts,” Troilo said. “I support their cause, and I hope that this works.”
Despite not meeting, Smash Club, like many clubs, will continue to work on any ongoing projects it started before December 1. For Smash Club, this means promoting and attending a screening of the movie Girl Rising. “We are going to still attend [the screening]. Over the Facebook group, we are going to work on promoting that event still because it’s something that we have committed to and something that we are going to follow through with,” Troilo said.
Goodman said the cancellation of non-EPES activities draws attention from the board and students. “I think it’s really important for the board to know how much they do for free,” Goodman said. “This is making the students realize all that [teachers] do for us and is making everyone more knowledgeable about the situation.”