BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - It appears the impasse between the Board of Education and the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA) will continue until at least September. The Fact Finder proposed a number of dates in June, July, August and September, all of which were acceptable to the board's negotiations committee. However, BHEA representatives told the Fact Finder September 10-12  were the first dates they were available. 

Board Member Bill Cassano provided an update on the progress of negotiations in his Negotiations Committee Liaison Report at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.

Cassano said the members of the Negotiations Committee had told the Fact Finder they were available to meet in June, July, August and September.  The Fact Finder then proposed the following dates: 

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 * July 31
 * August 1
 * August 6-8
 * August 14
 * August 20-21
 * August 27-28
 * September 5
 * September 10-12
 * September 18-19

“Negotiations Committee members initially said they were available on all but August 27 and 28, but later amended that to say that we were available on all of the dates, including Aug. 27 and 28,” Cassano said.

The Fact Finder later told the committee the BHEA said the first mutually agreeable dates were Sept. 10 and 11, Cassano said.

President of the BHEA Daniel McGovern had this response when asked to comment on Cassano's statement:

"Despite valiant efforts to finalize an agreement between the Board of Education and the employee’s union, the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA), the parties’ remaining issue of construction of salary distribution remains unresolved. That being said, BHEA members remain dedicated to getting this matter resolved so 100% of our efforts and attention can return to the students and our own families.

Here is our issue with meeting over the summer: the BHEA is made up of primarily 10 month employees who have been working under an expired contract for 2 years now. Many of our members, including negotiators, are working supplemental jobs and/or are enrolled in continuing education programs during the summer months. If the Board is prepared to settle using the BHEA’s salary guide proposal, a fair compromise that meets many of the Boards demands, this dispute can end immediately. The fact remains that we settled the contract back in October 2018, and we have yet to settle upon a way to distribute the already agreed upon salary funding so that it is fair and equitable.

At this time, the BHEA is no longer interested in mediation because of the board’s aggressive, disrespectful, and irresponsible behavior toward the BHEA. At this point, we need the help of the parents and community to put pressure on the Board of Education to get this matter resolved by attending board meetings and contacting the board president.

This will not only benefit the employees, but also the students and community. The consequences of this dispute are having a great deal of impact on the employees. We have not had a raise in two years and yet our payments towards health benefits continue to skyrocket, making it harder and harder to live within our means. We deserve a living wage and affordable healthcare.”

The contract with the BHEA expired on June 30, 2018. In September, assuming the distribution of the agreed upon raise across the salary guide is not already settled, the teachers will start their second year without a contract. Once the salary guide is approved, teachers and others in the BHEA will receive an increase in pay. Their last year with an increase in salary began in September 2017, the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Cassano responded to McGovern’s comments on Tuesday with the following statement:

"The BOE Negotiations Committee is made up of dedicated volunteer public officials, most of whom work full time jobs, yet they adjusted their schedules to be available the 10 proposed meeting dates in July and August.  The BHEA has often stated how finalizing the salary guide is of utmost importance and their highest priority, yet when it came down to making themselves available on any one of the more than 10 evenings in the summer, they didn’t. At every step in the negotiation process the BOE Negotiation's Committee has been more accessible, while the leadership of the association has delayed meeting.

 If the BHEA is prepared to settle using the BOE Negotiation's Committee's salary guide proposal, a fair compromise that meets many of the BHEA demands in a way that is not detrimental to the district, this dispute can end immediately.

While the BOE negotiation committee has been and is always willing to meet to advance good-faith negotiations, we recognize without any compromise on the part of the Association's leadership, it is not fruitful. We have great confidence in the fact-finding process and find it frustrating that the Association's leadership has introduced this additional delay.

It is very unfortunate that the Association has chosen to take actions that negatively effect the students, especially as they employ delaying tactics.  I am confident that these actions are instigated by the state union advisors and that the majority of our district's staff are uncomfortable with taking these actions."

Board President Doug Reinstein, in response to McGoverns comment that residents should contact him said, "Many parents in the community have done exactly what the BHEA would like - - they have contacted the Board President and re-affirmed, with unequivocal certainty, that they want a settlement that treats ALL of the teachers fairly… not just a select few."

Related Stories:

Teachers, Parents, Others Urge School Board to Trust Teachers, Resolve Salary Guide Standoff

Berkeley Heights School Board Willing to Return to Direct Negotiation After Mediation Process Stalls

Berkeley Heights Education Association, Board Fail to Reach an Agreement at Mediation Session

Berkeley Heights School Board, Education Association Divided on Salary Guide Issues; Mediation Session Set for Jan. 29

BHEA Members Rally for a New Contract Before Mediation Session

BHEA President, Members Let School Board Know They Want A Contract