ROXBURY, NJ – Negotiators for Roxbury’s teachers and school board reached a tentative agreement this week that, if approved, will end a divisive and lengthy contract dispute, said those involved in the matter.
The board of education’s negotiating team accepted, on Tuesday, a revised salary guide that was proposed by the teachers’ union two weeks ago, said union president Cindy Knill. The salary guide, which spells out how teachers move up the pay-scale, was a major stumbling block in the contract negotiations.
School board president Ron Lucas, who is not on the board’s negotiating team, confirmed the action.
“Obviously, I’m very pleased that the board’s negotiating team accepted the revised salary guide and I’m looking forward to speedy ratification by both sides; by the teachers and the entire school board. It’s been a long, drawn-out negotiation this time and I’ll be glad to see it ended.”
Lucas said he didn’t know when the board will be voting on whether to accept the proposed pact. He noted the teachers must first vote to approve it.
Knill said the union negotiators told the teachers about the situation. “As we informed our members, there are steps that need to be taken and, when we are able, we will be updating them with information regarding the ratification of the agreement so that we can finalize these current negotiations,” she said.
Lucas said the board’s negotiating team decided to accept the union’s revised salary guide after it received “an analysis” from its lawyer. “After about a 3-hour discussion, they agreed to accept it,” he said. “I don’t see any problem with the teachers’ union accepting it because they proposed it … I’m hopeful that this is now resolved.”
The teachers’ 3-year contract expired June 30, 2014. Even if the board and union reach ratification, their negotiators will soon begin bargaining a new contract.
The revised salary guide accepted this week by the board’s negotiators was presented by the union at nearly 1 a.m. on March 18, according to board negotiating team member Richard Alexander. Although Knill publicly took the board’s team to task for not hammering out a deal that night, Alexander said the board’s team needed time to analyze the union’s offer.
Details of the counter-offer were not available. The union had strongly opposed an effort by the board to add more “steps” to the guide. The board said the extra steps, or pay grades, would help even-out compensation and provide more incentive for new teachers but the union said the extra steps were beneficial only to the union, not to the teachers.
The protracted dispute prompted protests at board meetings, where teachers showed up with signs urging board action, plenty of angry words and a decision by the union to dissuade teachers from engaging in any unpaid, after-hours activities. Lucas said the dispute should not be taken as an indication of dissatisfaction among board members with Roxbury teachers’ performance.
“We have good teachers,” he said. “We have a good school system. Our teachers do a wonderful job with the kids. It’s just a shame this has gone on so long. It caused a lot of anxiety for everybody.”