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Fact Finder's Report Not Expected to be On Time

Report likely to help force movement in Warren Township school negotiations not expected in 45-day time frame.

A report on the stalled contract talks between Warren Township's board of education and the teachers association is not expected to be delivered Monday, the 45th business day after both sides provided the necessary documentation.

And despite the delay in what many parents may have been hoping would be a breakthrough on the situation, the New Jersey School Boards Association's Michael Yaple says it's not unusual for such delays to happen.

"Forty-five days is commonly used as the target for submitting the fact-finder’s report to both parties in school district fact-finding," he said. "Both school and union officials understand that mediators and fact-finders typically have a heavy caseload—and when the economy gets difficult, as it is now, it can be even more challenging to reach an agreement. However, neither side is surprised if the 45-day target isn’t met."

Superintendent of Schools Tami Crader said she believes the report may not be received until sometime in April.

Warren Township Board of Education member Sue Burman, who is leading the district's negotiations committee said she wouldn't be surprised if the report is delayed.

"I am aware that there are very few individuals conducting mediation and fact finding sessions throughout the state and there are a number of districts requiring these type of services at this time," she said. She added the board has directed its attorney to convey "the Board’s eagerness to receive the report so we can review and discuss his recommendations" to the state. "We have also reached out to the (Warren Township Education Association) leadership to see if they would like to continue settlement discussions until the report is received.  We have not received a response to date."

Many parents have been anxiously awaiting the report, with the board facing queries at each meeting. Although the fact finder's report is not binding on eitehr party, the fact it will be made public puts pressure on the negotiators to reach a settlement.

Warren teachers have been working under the terms of a contract that expired in June 2010. Negotiators began meeting with state-appointed fact finder Thomas Hartigan on  Dec. 7, completing the meetings on Jan. 13.

While the usual issues of salary increases and benefits payments separate the two sides, the talks have been complicated by changes in state laws setting limits on budgets the board can pass on to property owners and increasing payments required from teachers for pension and health care costs.

WTEA officials did not provide comment for this article.

Judy March 23, 2012 at 01:56 PM
There is no accountability for this entire process. Our BOE & WTEA can not settle on a contract, so we go to a fact finder who is supposed to come back in 45 days, but actually that's just a 'guideline'- apparently it can take as long as it takes & it has been over 45 days...when the fact finder comes back with a report, no matter what it says, it is non-binding- no one has to do anything that it says so we are just wasting more & more time and our schools are suffering. Seems to me both sides should take a long look at whoever is in charge of this process on both sides & think about replacing them because what they are doing just isn't working and it is creating a general distrust for both the BOE & the WTEA.
LB March 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Judy, is the delayed fact finding issue just with K - 8? I don't recall hearing about fact finding for the high school. I agree with what you have said. Perhaps a change in negotiators would work.
Judy March 23, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Yes, the fact finder is involved in the K-8 negotiations, our teachers are working under a contract that expired in June of 2010 so we have been dealing with this for longer and it is a real mess.
LB March 23, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Thanks, Judy, that's what I thought. I think the high school contract ended in 6/11. The whole scenario is just a shame. Not that my thoughts alleviate the situation, but I also think it's sad in general that teaching does not seem to be the respected position it should be.

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