Haddonfield Teachers Strike Bargain, Haddon Twp. Headed for Mediation

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Superintendents for both districts discuss the talks.

By Matt Skoufalos

Haddonfield Board of Education building. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Haddonfield Board of Education building. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Months of negotiations concluded in a marathon session that ended around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, but at the end of it, Haddonfield teachers and the school district that employs them had hammered out the makings of a new contract.

“Adjectives can’t describe how I feel,” a beleaguered Haddonfield Superintendent Richard Perry told NJ Pen.

“It took a lot of man-hours to get us to this point.”

The agreement in principle must be ratified by a majority vote of the Haddonfield Education Association before the school district can approve it.

Perry said the terms of the contract might not be divulged until “sometime in January, given the holiday structure and the number of board meetings we have left.”

The new deal covers teachers, educational assistants, support staff, secretaries, and maintenance workers in the district, who have been working under an expired contract since June 30.

Next on the docket, Perry said, is a bond referendum to cover the costs of infrastructure upgrades such as roofing, electrical, and HVAC repairs. The district has until August to get plans for the work approved or else forfeit 40 percent of the project cost in state aid.

“We’re looking at maybe multiple questions,” the superintendent said. “We don’t know what that’s going to entail yet.”

Haddon Township Superintendent Nancy Ward. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Haddon Township Superintendent Nancy Ward. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

‘It’s difficult for us not to all be settled’

Meanwhile, in Haddon Township, teacher contract talks are headed to mediation, said Haddon Township Superintendent Nancy Ward.

Both sides have met seven times since last spring, Ward said, “including in advance of the expiration of the contract,” which concluded in June 2014.

“We’ve worked through quite a bit, but there are just a few things,” Ward said. “So far I’m very pleased. It’s difficult for us not to all be settled.”

Haddon Township schools negotiate with two collective bargaining units, Ward said: one represents the teachers, secretaries, and technical support staff; administrators and supervisors have a second.

The latter contract—which is also expired—must wait until the former is resolved.

“They will be up next,” Ward said. “Our organization is the sum total of all of its parts.”

The superintendent said she was proud of the professionalism shown by personnel, who “continue to do all those things” necessary to keep the school system functioning smoothly during talks.

Ward also disputed the idea that any of the other district business—including a $39 million bond referendum and the beginnings of a massive technology roll-out—have distracted from the process.

“We are still conducting business in this district while negotiating,” Ward said. “That contract was never put on the back burner.”

‘You should be investing in people’

Representatives for the teachers’ unions in Haddonfield and Haddon Township were unreachable for comment, but Steve Baker, Associate Director for Public Relations for the New Jersey Education Association, offered some general insight.

“We believe in the concept of collective bargaining,” Baker said. “We believe it’s very important for the parties to sit down at the table and come to an agreement.”

Although Baker declined to comment on the specific issues at play in the talks (“Negotiations are so localized”), he said that even in districts focusing on technology and facilities build-outs, “the most important thing in education is the people.

“Districts have to invest in people to have successful public schools,” Baker said. “Infrastructure is very important; facilities are very important. I commend any community that follows through with a commitment to provide those things; you need to do that for successful schools.

“You should be investing in people,” he said.

CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this story incorrectly stated that the Haddon Township Education Association contract had expired in June 2013. The contract in fact ran out in June 2014.

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