Cherry Hill Board of Education, CHEA closing in on contract ratification

The Cherry Hill Board of Education and Cherry Hill Education Association are entering the new year with the goal on finally ratifying a new contract after 18 months of negotiations.

On the morning of Dec. 22, the board and CHEA officials signed a memorandum of agreement that included tentative agreements on all outstanding contract issues. Signing the agreement were members of the board’s negotiations committee, board President Carol Matlack, CHEA President Martin Sharofsky and CHEA negotiations chair Jay Young.

Matlack said the agreement was a significant step forward in the negotiations process.

“We look forward to the formal ratification of the new contract early in 2016,” she said.

The memorandum of agreement comes two weeks after both the board and CHEA announced they would accept the recommendations from state-appointed fact-finder Thomas Hartigan. Hartigan’s recommendations included a salary increase for CHEA members of 2.56 percent retroactive for the 2014–15 school year, a 2.8 percent in the current 2015–16 school year and 2.95 percent in each of the 2016–17 and 2017–18 schools years. In the recommendations, CHEA members would switch to a more cost-effective state employee health benefit plan beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. Both sides also had the option to add a fifth year to the contract and extend it through the 2018–19 school year.

Details on the new contract have not been released. Matlack said details will be released after a ratification vote takes place.

Timeline released for turf field construction

Community members could see construction activity beginning on the new turf fields at Cherry Hill High Schools East and West once the spring rolls around.

The school district has released a timeline detailing how long the installation of turf fields will take and when construction will begin.

District architect John Middleton said the township and school district expect to award a bid for the project in February. Construction is expected to begin shortly after the end of the bidding process.

The plan is to have the field at Cherry Hill West installed first. Middleton said construction at Cherry Hill West would take place from March through June. The turf field at Cherry Hill East will then be installed from June through August.

“Both projects are expected to be ready for use before the 2016 football season,” Middleton said.

Cherry Hill Public Schools has entered into a shared services agreement with Cherry Hill Township on the project. Both parties are splitting the total cost. The football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams at both high schools will use the new fields. The facilities will be available for use for township residents when the schools are not using the fields.

A possible timeline for phase two of the project has also been released. Phase two would include additional improvements to the football facilities at both schools. Cherry Hill East would see the addition of lighting and new bleachers. The current field house next to the stadium would be demolished.

“The purpose is to make room for the home side grandstands,” Middleton said.

At Cherry Hill West, there will be a new parking lot constructed next to the football field along with additional lighting and security upgrades.

The school board has yet to make a decision on phase two. Board Vice President Elliott Roth said the board plans to look deeper at the cost factor before making a decision.

If the school district decides to move forward with it, the project could be completed as soon as the summer of 2017.

Cherry Hill Rotary Club donates dictionaries to Cherry Hill third graders

Cherry Hill third-grade students are receiving a free reference book upon their return to school from winter break.

Cherry Hill Rotary Club President Bill Turner was on hand at the Dec. 22 meeting to present the dictionaries to third-grade students from Woodcrest Elementary School. In January, all third graders in the district will receive a free dictionary.

This is the ninth year the Rotary Club has donated dictionaries to Cherry Hill Public Schools. The donation is done in conjunction with the Cherry Hill Education Foundation.

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