BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- The news broke on Thursday, Nov. 14, that the long-awaited end of the dispute between the Berkeley Heights Education Association (BHEA) and Berkeley Heights Board of Education (BoE) was over.
That’s about all anyone should have said that night. Instead, Board Vice President Bill Cassano made a full slide presentation on the Fact Finder’s recommendation, which was issued on Nov. 8. He began with excerpts from the Fact Finder’s analysis in the recommendation section, “…the Board’s proposed guides, even if recommended by me, would be flatly rejected by the Association… (and) the desire to attract, retain and develop teachers in a changing demographic is a laudable goal. However, there was little evidence in the record of the Board’s difficulty in presently meeting this objective….”
What it left out were statements from the Fact Finder’s recommendations such as, “The Association guides are more closely aligned with the Base Year Salary Guide and Scattergram agreed to by the parties, and though the parties agreed to develop ‘mutually acceptable’ guides, the Board has not overcome the heavy burden to change the status quo guides especially since there is no cost to doing so.”
The problem with Cassano giving the report, as BHEA President Daniel McGovern said during the citizen’s hearing, was releasing information on the salary guide and other details of the BHEA’s offer was against PERC law.
After the meeting, in response to an email on the situation, McGovern elaborated, “the presentation of the BHEA’s salary guide and the release of the base salary guide percent increases contained in the memorandum of agreement” was against PERC law.
On Friday evening, Nov. 15, Board President Doug Reinstein in response to an email question on why the slide presentation was not posted with the other presentations from the meeting on the district’s website wrote “we didn’t post the presentation or the Fact Finder’s report today, as we realized after last night’s meeting that we need to wait a certain amount of time before we can post it." He also said he would get back to TAPinto over the weekend.
On Sunday evening Reinstein emailed TAPinto with the comment, “The BHEA will be conducting their membership meeting on Thursday afternoon. The district will post the Fact Finder’s report and presentation late Thursday afternoon after their meeting.”
In his email, McGovern said he did not know if “the BoE should have presented their proposal” on Nov. 14, but “what I know was against PERC law for sure was the presentation of the BHEA’s salary guide and the release of the base salary guide percent increases contained in the Memorandum of Agreement. The public disclosure of those two items prompted my attendance of the meeting.”
McGovern apparently learned about the pending discussion from teachers who were at the meeting that Reinstein announced the board would be discussing the Fact Finder’s report that evening.
There were two other slide presentations that evening, copies of both these presentations were included with the agenda. The negotiation presentation was not included with the agenda, nor was it listed on the agenda.
McGovern said typically the salary guide and base salary guide percent increases become public “when the new contract is published on the district website but in this case most of those details are contained in the fact finder’s report, but it is inappropriate for those to be made public prior to ratification of either party (or in this case, until 10 days expire from the release of the fact finder’s report to the BHEA and BoE.”
The members of the BHEA are expected to vote on the deal today, Monday, Nov. 25, he said. The local association is the first to vote, followed by the BoE, he explained. He said he thought it unlikely “the BoE would have accepted the fact finder’s report if they did not intend to vote to ratify the deal.”
By accepting the report, it appears BoE members “have agreed to accept the BHEA’s March 2019 salary guide proposal.”
It was McGovern’s understanding that the 10 days mentioned above are 10 business days, so he predicted the public release of those documents would come on Friday, Nov. 22. Instead, the information, including the presentation were posted on Thursday, Nov. 21 -- it may be that Monday, Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day was considered a business day, rather than a federal holiday.
All the items in the presentation, including the Statement on the Negotiations, Fact Finder’s Report and the slide presentation, BOE Negotiations Update, can be found on the BoE website here.
The negotiations update includes all the information presented to the public by the BoE in the Nov. 14 slide presentation, including excerpts from the Fact Finder’s report; a slide demonstrating “salaries are a function of position on the salary guide;” scattergrams; the district and board goals; the current BOE offer; comparison of salary guides; “Imperative of Fixing the Salary Guide;” comparisons to other guides in Union County; the BHEA Proposed Salary Guide; BOE Proposed salary guide and case studies.