Negotiations of school contracts at a standstill



Signs like these appear in Little Egg Harbor. (Photo courtesy of Facebook, verified by the teachers’ union)

LITTLE EGG HARBOR – As township students and staff returned to school this fall, at least one major issue remained unresolved.

“We are at an impasse in contract negotiations,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Melissa McCooley. “The teachers are currently working under their old contract. “

According to McCooley, John Berenato, deputy superintendent of schools joined her to negotiate the contract. The NJEA appointed a state representative to participate in discussions with the local teachers’ union.

McCooley and Berenato called the negotiations amicable at this point. The district offered teachers a three percent raise in the hope that concessions would be made in return.

“We asked for an extra day which would bring teachers up to 184 days per year,” Berenato said. “The extra day would be used for professional development. “

The three percent increase would apply to this year and relate only to teacher contracts. Directors and support staff perform their duties under up-to-date contracts.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa McCooley. (Photo by Stéphanie Faughnan)

At the last school board meeting, Nicholas K. Brown, school affairs administrator, read a statement on file regarding contract negotiations.

Brown said the Little Egg Harbor School District offers one of the highest starting salaries for teachers in Ocean County. The average salary for a teacher is $ 73,000 under the terms of their existing contract.

“When the president of the association declares publicly at a board meeting, they want stability,” Brown read. “There is little in the world more stable than a permanent teaching position in New Jersey.”

The school affairs administrator also responded to a teacher who spoke at a previous board meeting and called it contradictory to praise the work of local educators without giving them a new contract. He asked if union members were aware of the offer made by the district.

“Do you know that the board came up with a one year contract with a very fair raise so that we can go back to that year just focusing on getting our kids back?” Brown asked. “This offer was rejected within minutes.”

Other district employees have accepted less than three percent increases for their contracts this year, according to district leaders. Brown said other public sector workers would “jump for joy” at a 3% increase per year.

Lawn signs with the words “Tell council school workers need a contract NOW” started appearing in the township.

In response to a request for comment, Jaclyn Finnigan, president of the Little Egg Harbor Township Education Association, issued the following statement:

“The Little Egg Harbor Township Education Association represents all certified staff in the district. This includes teachers, nurses and guidance counselors. The Association has its own negotiating committee, made up of teachers, which is chaired by Nora Maloney and Jim McGettigan. We work with NJEA consultants and / or Uniserv representatives in an advisory capacity at our bargaining meetings as well as at the table with the Board of Education, however the bargaining committee makes all decisions.

“During this round of negotiations, talks broke down when the Board of Directors presented the Association with an all-or-nothing agreement that included major changes in time, duties and compensation. These massive demands were extremely costly and the board wanted the whole thing for 2.5%, which is well below the county average for a standstill contract. When the Association presented the amount of money the Council proposal was worth, the district ended the talks, told us to take it or leave it, and decided it was better to file a deadlock request. through PERC. We agreed that it would be best to work with a neutral third party appointed by PERC to work on a fair contract and signed the deadlock letter jointly filed.

John Berenato, Assistant Superintendent of Schools. (Photo by Stéphanie Faughnan)

“At this point, LEHTEA is working under a contract that has expired on July 1, 2021. The LEHTEA negotiating team has issued an invitation to continue discussions with the Board of Education team before our second session. mediation scheduled for October 6, 2021. We hope the board is ready to start talks and offer our educators, who have worked so hard during what is arguably the worst year in education EVER, a fair contract », Concludes the press release.

“It is my opinion that the representative of the NJEA discourages an amicable negotiation,” said McCooley. “We want to make arrangements with the teachers; we appreciate them. We must also have a fair negotiation.

However, that’s not at all how Finnegan sees it. She denies that the NJEA dissuaded the contract dispute from succeeding.

“We hope the district will come to mediation with a fair proposal,” Finnegan said. “We hope that we will not have to consider work actions of any kind, but we will be ready to do so if necessary.”



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