Back to school night will be rescheduled

A new school year is underway and at least one thing is the same from last year. Members of the Haddonfield Education Association will enter the 2011–2012 school year without contracts for the second year in a row.

Because of the lack of contracts, district teachers decided to not participate in last week’s back to school programs, HEA President Sharon Stokes said, which led the district to cancel the event outright.

Negotiations continue between the HEA and the Haddonfield School District, as the HEA members have been working without contracts in the district for the past 16 months. Currently the two groups are embroiled in a “fact finding” phase that is led by a professional state fact finder.

Last year, Stokes said teachers participated in all extracurricular activities, back to school nights, and generally made themselves available to students and parents well before and after the school day.

“This year, the second year that we don’t have new contracts, we’re going to curtail those activities. We’re telling our members to take care of their family and take care of themselves now,” Stokes said. “These activities have always been non-paid and non-recognized. All of a sudden it’s expected that the hours of my workday are from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.“

Members of the HEA are being encouraged to stick to the work hours that their contracts dictate, Stokes said, which are typically 30-minutes before and after the school day.

Stokes said that it was her hope when the fact-finding report comes out in October, a deal will be struck for new contracts. After the contracts are finalized, Stokes said the HEA is planning a full back to school night program to make up for the one cancelled last week.

Superintendent Rich Perry said the district reached out to the union to see if they would reconsider participating in the back to school night, but when they said they would not Perry made the decision to cancel the event.

“We were disappointed in regard to the decision for the teachers to not participate in back to school nights. We did everything we could to reach out to the union to express our concerns and get them to change their minds,” Perry said. “We’re hopeful as the negotiation process moves forward we can come to resolution as soon as we can. The BOE is negotiating fairly and has been committed to meeting with the union, and has been making every effort to settle the contracts.”

“In November of 2009, teachers and professional support staff of the district schools began the negotiations process with the Board of Education. We have been working since June 30, 2010 under an expired contract,” HEA member and negotiator Jacquelline Carroll said. “We have just begun our second year of school without a new contract, an unprecedented occurrence in the Haddonfield School District. Due to recent legislation, district employees are taking home less in our paychecks now than we did in 2009.“