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.