No settlement reached for the board and HEA

The Board of Education and the Haddonfield Education Association met with a state-appointed mediator in a closed session on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The Board of Education and the Haddonfield Education Association met with a state-appointed mediator in a closed session on Tuesday, Dec. 5, but the two sides did not reach a settlement.

The HEA’s contract expired at the end of June, and both the board and the HEA agreed to mediation in September.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement by 2 a.m. after nine hours of mediation,” HEA Co-President Stacey Brown-Downham said. “We are extremely disappointed with some of the concessions we were still asked to make, especially those that have been established as non-starters for us for some time.”

“There were also a number of issues that should have been resolved before we got to mediation, issues that have been on the table for months, that the board had not countered or signed off on,” Brown-Downham added.

Although the board was prepared to stay later, the HEA decided it would be “irresponsible” to attempt to sign off on anything at so late a juncture, Brown-Downham said.

Another meeting has been scheduled due to ongoing “language issues” that need to be settled, according to both sides. When asked which specific issues, the HEA declined specifics but did say it is, “nothing that should be a deal breaker at this point.”

However, the HEA is being very cautious in its optimism until the language is taken care of, according to Brown-Downham.

“We absolutely need to settle language issues between now and then and hope the board will come to the table ready to get to the most important issues,” Brown-Downham said. “They have promised us that they respect us and are ready to settle, and we need to see action between now and the 18th to see that they mean what they say.”

Board President Adam Sangillo said the language of the contract is “a complicated issue that must represent our district and our employees for three years.”

“Certain elements cannot be rushed, nor should they be introduced for discussion at a late hour,” Sangillo said. “We had been available, have asked and would have liked an opportunity to meet prior to negotiations if the HEA still had issues with language.”

Sangillo said board is “negotiating in good faith.”

“As the HEA continues public pressure and outreach, [the public] may be led to believe that the board of education is holding out, or that we have not been willing to present a fair offer,” Sangillo said. “We will not negotiate in public, but we will attest that we have been and are willing to meet on many occasions and would have continued the meeting last night and that the HEA called the end of the session.”

The next meeting with the state-appointed mediator is scheduled for Dec. 18 to continue the discussion.