Teachers, Board Reach 'Tentative' Contract Agreement
Negotiations that have been going on since 2010 may soon be over
Next month, Mahwah teachers would have hit the two-year mark of working under an expired contract. After a professionally-mediated fact finding meeting between the Mahwah Board of Education and the Mahwah Education Association Wednesday, school officials say teachers may have a new contract before that happens.
“There has been a tentative settlement between the MBOE and the MEA,” Board President Tricia Shada told Patch Thursday. “Details will be made public after both parties have ratified the contract.”
MEA President Laura Beattie confirmed that the two sides reached a “tentative settlement” Wednesday night. She too said she could not give any more specific details about the contract yet.
After a two-year negotiation process that touched on everything from rising healthcare costs to compensation, the MEA and BOE reported in March that one last sticking point – meeting times – was keeping them from reaching an agreement. Members of the board’s negotiating committee said they wanted the school’s administration to set the agenda for all four after-school meetings teachers are required to attend every month. Members of the MEA said they wished to keep the current system, whereby administration schedules only two of the meetings.
Since the MEA declared an official “impasse” in negotiations in February 2010, the two sides have been going through a mediated negotiation process with state officials from the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). At past board meetings, board Vice President and Chief Negotiator Chuck Saldarini has called the mediated process “incredibly arduous and incredibly slow. And, on top of that, the results are completely non-binding.”
During an impasse, negotiations can still be reached using traditional face-to-face meetings, if the two sides so choose. After a series of these types of meetings at the end of 2011 and beginning of this year, the MEA announced in March that it would wait until the May 2 mediated session to negotiate further. MEA negotiators cited the board’s “unwillingness to compromise” on the after school meetings issue as the main reason for waiting.
The news of progress likely comes as a relief to board members, teachers and parents in the district, who have all expressed a desire to see the contract settled. Many front lawns throughout the township have displayed “Support Our Schools – Settle the Contract” signs for months. Parents have also complained about the lack of a settlement affecting their kids.
The agreement reached Wednesday needs to be approved by the board and the MEA’s entire membership before being ratified.