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Still at Impasse, School Negotiations Go to Fact-Finder

Board of Education and Education Association begin process on Thursday.

After between the board of education and the , the two sides will officially head into fact-finding on Thursday.

"Since our last update, our representatives have continued discussions in an attempt to achieve a mutually satisfactory agreement," board of education vice president Patrick Breslin said at Tuesday's board of education meeting. "No agreement was reached."

Steve Beatty, president of the B-REA and social studies teacher at , said after the meeting there has been no more progress since the two entities attempted to hold meetings once again in early June.

"There were no more full meetings with the two teams," he said. "Nothing official came out."

As for the fact-finding process, Beatty said, it will begin with mediation, as the fact finder will hear timelines, offers and perspectives from both sides.

"Then he will start doing his thing to get both sides to start moving," he said. "It will be a mediation at first."

Beatty said at the first meeting the fact-finder will attempt to reach some sort of agreement between the two sides.

"However long it takes for him to get the facts together, he'll make recommendations based on everything," he said. "He'll work as long as it is. Both sides have committed to the entire day and night."

"We are more than happy to do so, it would be time well spent," he added. "If at midnight we could walk away with a memorandum of agreement, [that would be great]."

On the other hand, Beatty said, the fact finder could determine after many hours that they will not get anywhere, and a deal cannot be formed through mediation.

In that situation, Beatty said, they could either try again on another day, or the real fact finding process could begin.

"Then we present with facts, figures and details, and at that point there would be no mediation," he said. "We say here's what we want, and here's why we believe it should be that way."

From there, Beatty said, the fact finder would take a couple weeks and write a nonbinding report about what he thinks the agreement should look like. The board of education and B-REA can determine from there if they accept that agreement or draft a new one with pieces of it.

"But we're at impasse now, and the first meeting he's here for is mediation," he said. "We hope to have a fair deal that we've been asking for all along."

For many, the goal is just to make some progress at this point.

"I really hope we can finalize this before the school year begins," said parent Penny Wolf at the meeting. "I feel on both ends, we as parents and the school district and the teachers all have to give a little bit. We would really like to see it finalized."

Robin B July 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Teacher salary and benefit enhancements during this very weak economy when so many don't even have jobs seems out of line. Such enhancements are provided in the private sector when qualified job candidates cannot be found; that is hardly the current situation in the school system. Nobody represents taxpayers out of work who are struggling to meet their expenses and can ill afford yet more tax increases.
Bwater Parent July 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
For heaven's sake - find middle ground and get this figured out already! This has gone on too long and while both sides stubbornly dig their heels in and make veiled (and not so veiled threats), MY KIDS' ARE THE ONES WHO ARE PAYING THE PRICE. Shame on all of you, BOE and BREA.
VH Teach July 25, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Your kids are not paying the price. Neither are mine - I live and teach in the district, by the way. Your kids and my kids have been reaping the benefits of teachers who go way beyond their duties every day. Our kids have been educated amazingly well. The teachers aren't looking for luxury, they're looking for fair treatment. If you think your kids are paying the price, you can get them private tutoring out of your own pocket. Asking teachers to volunteer, to give so much to their students, when they're being so jerked around by the BOE is absurd. If the community doesn't want to pay their teachers well, they can pay their private tutors $100 an hour for the same results. If you think that "I am going to go get a second job rather than volunteer my time for free" is a threat, you should think again.
Kids First July 25, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Something for "unrepresented taxpayers" to think about... Teachers & staff will be paying millions toward health care, and the BOE has proposed a fraction of that in salary increments. Residents may not have a say in how the savings will be spent. In February 2012, the BOE voted 5-3 to adopt bill A4394 which allows school board elections to be moved to November. With the move, the budget will not be on the ballot as long as it stays under the 2% state-mandated cap. This means that taxes can (and most likely will) increase up to 1.99% every year without taxpayer approval. That will add up very quickly!
Kids First July 25, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Please be more specific about these "benefit enhancements." Over one year ago, the BREA offered to switch from a private carrier to the School Employees’ Health Benefits program which would have saved approximately $1 million per year; the BOE refused. Now the Board has voted to impose this very change in benefits without bargaining. This is not only a blatant disregard for the negotiation process. The BOE could have saved millions if they had made the switch when the BREA wanted to. It doesn't seem like the BOE is concerned about the "unrepresented" taxpayers' collective wallets.
Kids First July 25, 2012 at 02:54 PM
The BOE provided the superintendent and other top administrators guaranteed raises of 2-3.75% per year EACH for the next four years. In fact, the superintendent’s current salary exceeds the governor’s imposed cap by more than $30,000. This was covertly done shortly before the cap went into effect. It’s appalling that the BOE isn’t willing to compensate the people who actually teach children.
Metoo July 25, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Here we come again on a Saturday night. With your fussin' and your fightin' won't you get me to the rhyme. I wanna move.
Robin Schrotter July 25, 2012 at 03:10 PM
If everyone stops and considers how much a teacher really makes per hour, you will discover that we make minimum wage. I am a teacher in Elizabeth and bridgewater hopefully doesn't have the problems that we encounter ! I live in bridgewater because it is a beautiful town with lovely people! Do you know why that is? It is because the schools are very highly rated and this keeps people coming to live here. My own children went to Cranford schools. Cranford has astronomical taxes but younger families move in because of the schools! Please support the educational system in Beidgewster. Keep it a town in which people are proud to live.
Metoo July 25, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Few people these days, stop and consider much of anything, or so it would seem...
Mr. Had Enough July 25, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I agree, morale is low, teachers feel unappreciated and disrespected by the BOE and administration, some can't afford to pay their bills and have to seek second jobs which will result in giving up volunteer services. It is our children who ultimately suffer and this should have been settled. The quality of the education in our district is the quality of the teachers and neither the BOE or BREA is not acting in the best interest of the community. If this doesn't get resolved and the teachers insist on working just to contract per the union mandate, who is going to suffer? Our kids!!! As far as VH Teach's comment, As a resident I would love to see you earn your increase, not get it because a contract tells you you get one. And yes, because of the lower morale and teachers having to focus on surviving on less money it detracts from the quality of education provided.
VH_teacher July 25, 2012 at 05:09 PM
How can you say that teachers are not acting in the best interests of the community? How should they do that...by continuing to volunteer their time, away from their own families, away from other paying jobs, in order to give kids a free education? How would you feel about mowing my lawn? For free? I mean, it would be in the best interest of the community, for sure, because it would enable me to stick around school and help more kids. Are you willing to devote your free time, sometimes 10 hours per week, for the kids in this district? Put your time where your mouth is. Until you do that, you have no right to suggest that teachers don't act in the best interest of the community. That would be like my suggesting that because you don't voluntarily donate an extra $2000 on top of your property tax bill to this town, you aren't acting in the best interest of the community. Don't you see how absurd this attitude is?
teachB-R July 25, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Wondering where the article is about how the BOE voted to approved the Superintendent's raise on Tuesday night setting his salary for next year at $206k. So let's make this clear: Vote to impose health benefit changes which provide a lesser plan to the teachers with no eye care, Vote to change prescription and dental plans for the teachers, Claim to be fiscally responsible, Vote to approve a superintendents salary at $36k over the state cap...... yep all is well and good in Bridgewater-Raritan.
Metoo July 25, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Hmm, can you say bias...
BwaterDad July 25, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I have an idea: Reduce the Superintendent's pay to $175,000, and then take the $36,000 that would be saved and make that the raise for the other district employees - in total. That's $36,000 to be spread out among all the union members, including BREA, principals, supervisors and non-bargaining employees. That would be ok, right? We'd stop hearing about the superintendent's pay increase then, right?
Metoo July 25, 2012 at 11:09 PM
More than likely, you wouldn't be heading about it if there hadn't been a hush/rush to increase his salary prior to the cap being put in place, this now is is just more hypocrisy... Leaders lead by example, where's the shared sacrifice our governor has so often talked about?
Mr. Had Enough July 26, 2012 at 02:16 AM
@VH Teach - I volunteer a lot of time in addition to working 50 plus hours a week and spending time with my wife and children. Your last comment proves my point, you are acting your best interest, not our kids. You will get a raise, just less than you want and its not good enough for you despite the fact that most private industry jobs are offering lower salaries, lower increases and smaller to no bonuses combined with the increasing cost of healthcare. You think you can do better elsewhere, have fun. Don't cry to the taxpayers because you think you are worth more money. And, if teachers and BREA decide to work to contract and nothing more, then you lose credibility even further with the residents.
VH_teacher July 26, 2012 at 02:43 AM
@mr had enough... A) no, I will not get a raise. I will get a pay cut. My take home pay will not be back to 2009 levels until 2016. The BREA is asking for a smaller pay cut, not a raise. B) you missed my point about volunteering. I will continue to volunteer my time, but I'll do it or an organization which appreciates my efforts. I can do better elsewhere. I can tutor for $100 per hour because that's what Bridgewater and basking ridge and watchung parents are willing to pay. Seriously, I'll make my living one way or another...I'd rather spend my extra time helping your kids, but I need to pay my bills. Taxpayers, don't cry to the teachers when your kids don't get the volunteer efforts you've come to take for granted.
BRSoccer July 26, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Mr Had Enough, There will be no raises for the majority of teachers in the district. With the teachers contributing significantly more to their health insurance and more to the pension system, even if the board agreed to what the BREA is asking, most teachers still take home less pay than they did 2 years ago. There is no raise. We need to treat the teachers of our district with the utmost respect because guess what, they do a phenomenal job at teaching our children. The BOE has bullied and bashed the teachers of our district for long enough. Instead of the BOE supporting their own teachers, they have beaten them into the ground. I don't blame them for being angry. It shocks me that a BOE who can't settle a contract, be trusted at the helm of a well respected school district? How have we let this happen? I work 2 jobs to ensure my child receives the best education possible. I want the best teachers possible for my child and recognize you get what you pay for. Mr. Had Enough, I've had enough of the lack of respect you are showing our teachers. If the teachers decide to work to contract, you can thank your BOE. Let's wake up Bridgewater-Raritan and support our teachers; they deserve it!
Wilbur July 26, 2012 at 11:57 AM
@VH Teacher You mentioned more than once that volunteering seems to have become part of your job. Don't you get a stipend when you run an afternoon after school program? Aren't your extra help hours for struggling students part of your work day? What volunteering are you referring to?
teachB-R July 26, 2012 at 12:10 PM
So it's fair to pay the Superintendent earn 20% over the state cap and say that the teachers in one of the highest performing schools in the state should be happy with making approximately the state average salary. Maybe teachers have it wrong, they should ask to be paid based on their merit and rewarded. BREA should be asking to be the among the highest paid teachers in the state. The superintendent's salary is just a direct display of how the BOE is making the BREA feel unappreciated, not saying that taking $36k from his salary would fix the issue, but you're already taking millions out of the BREA with state mandated changes to the health benefits contributions. The BREA has only been asking for a salary allotment which would give credit to all teachers on the current salary guide for time served. Anything less than the 2.85% salary allotment increase (not individual salary increases) would require a new salary guide with each step earn less than the previous guides.
Metoo July 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM
From what I've been told, for the most part no, although there are some stipends bu, for most clubs no, and no , the contracted hours of the work day are defined in the contract-staying after school is not required. Just what I've stated...
teachB-R July 26, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Some clubs and activities have paid advisers, not all. Most sports programs have volunteer coaches. Most "fun clubs" (pie eating club, chess club, frisbee club, etc...) are volunteer teachers. Extra help hours are not contractually required (but have become a large part of the BR school system). Decorating a classroom is volunteer. Going to support your children as they participate in school events and sports is volunteer. The Big Nick classic in the middle school, and other teacher events in all schools is volunteer. Calling parents is volunteer (there is now powerschool to monitor student progress.) College letters of recommendation is volunteer. Teaching accelerated classes has no extra stipends. Teaching low level classes has no extra stipends.
think08807 July 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
This whole process doesn't seem to be about the board having the money to dole out raises...they seem to be using there 'power' to withhold raises. What purpose does this serve ANYONE. DO WHAT'S RIGHT. They work hard, they keep our community where we think it should, they provide a service to our children, And our schools are clean safe place where our children feel at home, a community NEEDS all these things. If the district is making back money by sharing the cost of benefits with the teachers, give it back, why is there no money for raises FOR the teachers...it could simply be a wash? And IF there is no money for teachers (secretaries and ALL the people in special needs) why are there monies available to be spread out to the 'The BOE provided the superintendent and other top administrators guaranteed raises of 2-3.75% per year EACH for the next four years'(From KidsFirst comment). Everyone talks about our districts hard economic times, Mike Schilder is a heck of great guy but he should be embarrassed taking home a raise of 3 grand in addition to the $203,000 of which 30 grand is OVER the cap. RESOLVE our teacher issue and let's get back to maintaining and improving our schools
Mr. Had Enough July 26, 2012 at 05:58 PM
BR Soccer, Even if you look at my first comments, I have been very supportive of our teachers getting an increase and voting for new BOE members when their terms are up. Its not fun working when you feel unappreciated but at the same time, this is their chosen profession and under the circumstances, they should act like professionals (which many do, but obviously not all), The quality of education has gone down in Bridgewater over the past decade - significantly. While you get what you pay for, look at the data in Somerset County, they are all averaging about the same which is also the goal of the BOE. Not saying its write or wrong or people wont feel the pinch but it is what it is. Every average worker makes less money today, plain and simple. Whether you are a blue collar worker, a financier, an educator, that is the way it is. Even when I was a young child growing up in North Jersey, teachers worked multiple jobs whether it was p/t selling real estate, day camps, other summer jobs, its the nature of the career. Working additional hours is part of a teachers job, always has been, always will be. I can empathize with the hard times some have financially but, the quality of life overall has declined for many people in Bridgewater, not just teachers. Senior citizens on fixed incomes can't afford significant tax levies, nor the unemployed or others who are also making less. Same thing with the budget, I always vote for the school budget, many don't.
Mr. Had Enough July 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
That is actually a great idea!
Fedup July 26, 2012 at 07:10 PM
My spouse has been a teacher for 23 years and we will essentially taking an $8K-$10K pay cut to pay for medical with no raise. Those with the longest service will pay more than those with less. If our BOE were good stewards of taxpayer money, I could almost swallow this in these very challenging economic times but the BOE has demonstrated extremely poor leadership. Let's look at some examples besides the raises to the Superintendent. A few years ago, the "everyday math" program was scrapped and the BOE spent ~ $1M implementing a math program that 3 years later we find did NOT meet state requirements. The BOE is now going to spend ~$1M on the FIRST phase (K-2nd grade) on a NEW math program. I would guess additional phases for grades 3 through 5 will be well over $1M and it is in debate if the new program that is being examined will meet state requirements. Let's also look at the tens of millions of $$$ spent building a new school and expanding every school in the district to find out only FIVE years later that enrollment is dropping and one of the solutions might be to close a school. This is inexcusable! It makes me think that the "hard ball" negotiations is to justify the absolutely abysmal decisions that have been made by the BOE in other areas of our taxpayer $$$$.
Kids First July 26, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Don't forget extra help before school or during lunch, graduation, classroom celebrations & end of the year parties. In some cases, teachers reach into their own pockets to cover costs. I'm sure I'm leaving out a lot more, but we'll all see the impact in September if the contract isn't settled.
Kids First July 26, 2012 at 07:44 PM
The BOE is definitely creating a power struggle. The BREA does not possess the same leverage as the BOE. The only way they are going to get their point across is to work to the contract and stop all volunteer activities.
BRSoccer July 27, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I agree with the points made by think08807. This negotiations stalemate by the board is not an issue of money. It is an issue of power. It's an issue of absolute power. I don't think we need to be reminded of the old addage, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". And I think it even goes beyond power with the issue of some very strong egos getting in the way. The money contributions made by the teachers to their health benefits should cover the cost of the increase they are asking. If it doesn't, it must be close. When the contribution % of health insurance increases over the next couple of years for teachers, it will definitely cover that cost and in addition put money in the BOE purse. So, why not use that money to give back to our teachers. I don't see taxes going up a single cent. I keep hearing about the fear of taxes increasing. I don't see how this would happen. I wish someone could respond with actual numbers and talk to the point of taxes and would taxes go up at all in response to a settlement between the BOE & BREA. The residents want this settled. Do we all really want to see the impact of the teachers holding to the letter of their contract? The extra help to students-gone, the many clubs and activities not supported by teacher stipends-gone, college letters of recommendation-gone. What is it going to take before we all wake up?
Realitybites August 03, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Somehow, the pursuit of money is widely considered to be the American Dream. Until a teacher does it. Then, it becomes the mark of selfishness...

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