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BOE, teachers to meet on contracts


While an agreement on contracts has yet to be reached between the Moorestown Board of Education and the local teachers’ union, a February fact-finding session will aim to help them reach accord.

The Board’s negotiation’s committee released a letter yesterday stating that the BOE and Moorestown Education Association are scheduled to meet with a state appointed fact finder on Feb. 7 as the next step in the impasse process.

According to the letter, the BOE made an offer to the MEA on Dec. 15 similar to the tentative agreement the Board reached with the Moorestown Administrator’s Association in December.

That three-year agreement includes no salary increase for administrators in 2011 followed by a two percent increase in 2012 and 2013. MAA members have also agreed to contribute 1.5 percent of their salary toward their health benefits and to switch to a healthcare plan with a Cafeteria Plan, which establishes individual Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA’s) that allow employees to set aside portions of their earnings to pay for qualified expenses included in the plan

The MAA’s agreement also includes concessions in supplementary insurance plans including Board contribution for a disability plan. Under the agreement, all elementary school principals will be converted from 10.5-month employees to 12-month employees.

According to the Board’s letter, the MEA rejected their proposal. The two parties also met for another session on Jan. 3, which resulted in no agreement.

MEA President Lisa Trapani said the Moorestown administrators’ contracts and settlement includes higher benefits, including medical insurance benefits, than the staff that works with students.

“The Board of Education has refused to address this disparity,” Trapani said. “Therefore, when the Board of Education reports that the administration agreed to a change in the level of benefits, no one reports that those benefits continue to exceed the level of benefits of the teachers, secretaries, paraprofessionals and buildings and grounds employees.”

Trapani said that the Board has not changed its position from its original proposal except to demand more and that the MEA has offered several creative solutions to attempt to reach a settlement.

“The MEA continues to present creative solutions and the BOE continues to reject them. Settlements were reached in Cherry Hill and Eastern through the cooperation of both parties. It appears that the Moorestown BOE is not interested in a settlement,” Trapani said.

Trapani said MEA thought the parties were close to agreement on Dec. 15, but that the Board stated that was not the case at the Jan. 3 session.

“On December 15th at 2 a.m. the BOE paid negotiator met with us and told us the BOE was going home. The MEA told him that we were willing to stay all night. The MEA asked to meet with a specific BOE member. In both cases, we were denied.” Trapani said.

According to the Board’s letter, their focus continues to be on “balancing ‘affordability’ while also maintaining, to the extent possible, the programs and staff for which the Moorestown School district prides itself.”

The fact finding stage of the impasse process occurs after initial negotiations and a mediation process are unsuccessful in producing an agreeable resolution. The fact-finding stage is a structured procedure that involves an appointed fact-finder who will collect information from both parties and deliver a report with specific recommendations for settlement. The phase is expected to take several months to complete.

If the fact-finding stage does not produce a resolution, the parties will enter into a super conciliation process, which involves another neutral party to come in and attempt to persuade the parties to reach an agreement.

The mediation process and state appointed mediator come at no cost to either party. Both the fact-finder and the super conciliator are paid for in equal parts by the Board and the Association. According to the Board, the total cost for the fact-finding process is $6,000, meaning each party will pay $3,000. The cost covers a one-meeting session, a hearing, and two days of report writing.

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