Talks Underway, But No Word on Settlement
Township and WTEA negotiators meet ahead of fact finder visit.
UPDATE: The Board of Education issued the followed statement on last night's talks at 3:50 p.m.:
"The Board of Education met last night with the WTEA and with a state-appointed fact finder in a continued effort to bring the negotiations process to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, no settlement was reached. The WTEA is asking for a salary increase of 10% over three years. The Board has offered a proposal which includes a salary increase that is more consistent with other district settlements. Given the Board's commitment to maintaining high quality education for Warren students, the WTEA request is not viable. The Board values the district's staff and believes that they have offered a fair salary increase. The Board is limited by state-imposed regulations to a 2% tax levy increase each year for a total of 6%. Therefore, any increase that exceeds 2% in one year in the large salary/benefits line of the budget will cause a reduction in other areas, potentially impacting class sizes, facilities maintenance, programs, and personnel. The total cost of the WTEA's requested increase is approximately 2 million dollars above and beyond the existing budget, clearly an unsustainable dollar figure. The Board of Education remains willing to negotiate. The next scheduled session is a fact-finding hearing to be held on December 7th."
Monday's Warren Township Board of Education meeting barely mustered a quorum, as members of the board's negotiating committee met with their counterparts on the Warren Township Education Association.
The meeting marked an increase in discussions in recent weeks, following a Nov. 21 session.
But at Monday's meeting, Board of Education President Gregory Przybylski would only confirm that the discussion set terms for continued talks. Following a resident's quesiton, he said the negotiating teams met for about five hours last week, setting a framework for "pertinent areas of discussion."
"A flurry of recent activity that, hopefully, will prove fruitful," Dr. Przybylski said, in describing the meetings.
Barring a break-through in the talks, the teams will meet Dec. 7 with the fact finder.
Later in the meeting, parent Alisa Philip expressed her frustration with a lack of communication from her daughter's teacher. She said she must contact the teacher to follow on lesson plans and provide help to her daughter, instead of being able to rely on being kept aprised of classroom activities on the school's website.
"I feel that the teacher we have been working with is basically under a reactive vs. a proactive approach," she said. "I find it really appalling and I hope that my child doesn't have to suffer."
In response to her concerns, Superintendent Tami Crader said the labor dispute "does not preclude good practices" for involvement in the classrooms. She said any parents with concerns should discuss their issues with the teachers first, then school administrators and district officials, if necessary.
"The majority of our teachers are trying really hard to balance their interests in their association and their interests in their students," Dr. Crader said. "And I think the majority of them are doing it very well."
She added those who aren't serving students well need to be reminded of their obligation to the students.