Letter from the HCRHS Board of Education

Dear Parents, Guardians and Community,

The Hunterdon Central Board of Education (Board) would like to update you on the progress of contract negotiations with our teachers and affiliated staff who belong to the Hunterdon Central Education Association union (HCEA).

The current HCEA contract that was in effect for 3 years is currently expired, but union members are still being paid under the terms and conditions of the expired contract. Earlier this year, the Board successfully negotiated contracts with both the Administrators’ and Bus Drivers’ unions. Only the HCEA contract remains to be settled.

The Board and the HCEA are currently at “impasse.” This means that, despite lengthy negotiations with representation from the New Jersey State Education Association (NJEA) and legal representation for the Board, the parties have been unable to come to agreement. This is not unusual. In fact, the majority of contracts are settled in New Jersey after declaration of impasse, with the assistance of a Mediator or Fact-Finder appointed by the State.

Once impasse has been established, the process becomes more formalized. Both sides participate in Mediation. If that is unsuccessful, the process moves on to Fact-Finding and then to Super-Conciliation. Our first Fact-Finding session will occur on December 12, 2016, with additional sessions scheduled if needed. If the impasse cannot be resolved during those sessions, a Fact-Finding report will be issued. After receipt of that report, both parties have five days to meet, define their positions and attempt to resolve the impasse. If that does not happen, the Commissioner of Education or Director of Conciliation may step in to resolve the impasse. Please know that, to date, the Board has worked very hard to reach a settlement and is looking forward to the Fact-Finding process that should help the parties to reach a fair settlement.

We understand that this situation is stressful for the entire community and have been working collaboratively with the teachers who represent the union, in order to reach a fair settlement. Exactly what has happened so far? The Board has come to the table 17 times to negotiate, most recently on August 29, 2016. We met twice even after the arbitrator sent the Board negotiating team home, because he said, “No progress would be made.” We have come to the table ready to negotiate every time the HCEA has asked.

The Board has put several solid offers on the table. Sadly, it is unclear to us whether they have been shared with the membership of the union by its leadership; however, that is beyond our control. We cannot force the HCEA to present information to its constituents that it does not believe to be in its best interest.

Again, we are hopeful that the impasse will be resolved at Fact-Finding or soon thereafter. It is unfortunate that the negotiations with the HCEA have taken this long. We are disappointed that we have been unable to keep school open for our students on Columbus Day and Election Day, but our teachers chose to exercise their statutory rights to not report to school.

We value and recognize the importance of our staff and their place in your children’s lives and education. That being said, The Board of Education has responsibility to all of our stakeholders, including our taxpayers. We hope that we have your continued support to see the District through the negotiating process and ensure an outcome that is in the best interest of our students, their parents and guardians, our school and the community as a whole.

Communication regarding make-up days for the emergency closings will be forthcoming, as soon as possible.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you and our District. As always, we appreciate your patience and support. Please feel free to contact the Interim Superintendent or the Board with any concerns.

Deb Labbadia
President, HCRHS Board of Education