October 16, 2016
People have recently been asking, “Why is the HCRHS contract not settled?”
One big reason is that the BOE wants to increase the teaching load of the majority of the teachers in the school, but our teachers know that this will not be good for our students, for our school, and for our community. Our students regularly come back to us after having moved on to college and report that they are able to excel in college as a result of how well we’ve prepared them, and that they see their classmates struggling because of a lack of preparation. Our students are so well prepared because we, the teachers, are well-prepared when we walk into our classroom each and every day! If our teaching loads increase, it will be difficult to provide the type of individualized feedback that we presently offer and that our students need to truly grow. It will interfere with our ability to create meaningful lessons that are geared specifically to the needs of each class. We will have less time during the work day to meet and communicate with parents and counselors regarding students’ progress, less time to reflect on the needs of our students and the changes we need to make to meet those needs, less time to collaborate with other teachers, less time to write college recommendations, and less time to plan and prepare for the other classes we are teaching. In addition, it will result in our teachers needing to work an additional four hours a week at home on average just to prepare for that one additional class. And what is the BOE offering to us is we accept this extra workload? Their offer would equate to a salary increase of about $40 a week for the average teacher…for four hours a week of extra take-home work. No thank you, BOE! We value our teachers more than that. We value our students more than that. We know that adding that extra class will not only result in burned out teachers, but will also result in new teachers jumping ship after only a few years when they learn that other schools offer their teachers an addition 10-20% of their yearly salary for taking on a sixth class. Is this what we want for our school? A never-ending rotation of young, inexperienced teachers? Experienced teachers who are burned out and overly stressed? Is that in the best interest of our students and our district? And yet the same BOE that claims that they need to make this change to our district in order to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers is willing to spend millions of dollars on a weight room that is not needed and has millions of dollars of capital improvements planned for the future. They are willing to invest in the facilities, but not in the very people who are in direct contact with the students. So, we have said no to their offers. We have been unwilling to agree to their contract proposals. As the ones who work directly in the classrooms, with our students, as the ones who have the professional experience to know how this will affect our district, we cannot agree to something that would be so detrimental to our ability to do the work that we do.
Please support our decision by coming to Monday night’s (October 17) BOE meeting and speaking out for us. There are two public comment sessions, one in the beginning of the meeting for items on the agenda and one at the end of the meeting. If you speak, you would want to speak at the public comment session at the end of the meeting. Meetings typically run between one to two hours long and take place in the Little Theater starting at 7 pm.
October 4, 2016
The teachers, counselors, nurses, operations and maintenance staff, custodians, and support staff members of Hunterdon Central High School entered into contract negotiations with the HCRHS Board of Education over a year and a half ago, in January of 2015. After many months of meetings, impasse was declared. Although much progress was made during the many sessions that the two teams met, the Board has been unwilling to offer a fair and equitable contract. The main sticking points are the workload of the teachers, a competitive salary, and a reasonable contribution towards health benefits. The Association is NOT seeking to eliminate contributions towards their health benefits, but it is fighting for a fairer and more reasonable amount to contribute, much like the 31 other locals throughout the state that have already bargained this. In addition, the Association is NOT seeking to decrease the teachers’ workload.
The HCRHS Board of Education is very proud that Hunterdon Central is a two-time recipient of the national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award. They take pride in the fact that NJ Monthly rated HCRHS as 44th in the state out of a total of 339 public high schools in 2014 and that Niche rated HCRHS 31st in New Jersey and 259th nationally. In addition, over the past eight years, six of Hunterdon Central’s teachers have been named as Hunterdon County’s Teachers of the Year, and many of our other faculty and staff members have been recognized by various organizations throughout the country for the work that they have done in the field of education. The HCRHS Education Association is proud of the work its members, the students, and families have done to earn such prestigious accolades, and feels its members should be compensated accordingly. It’s unfortunate that the Board of Education is unwilling to invest in the very people who make HCRHS the award-winning school district for which families move into the area.
We are presently at a stalemate in negotiations, and waiting for a third-party fact-finder to meet with us to help us solve our differences. Unfortunately, we have waited for this process of fact-finding for over four months so far and still have not been given notice of when it is going to occur. The Board has left us little choice but to implement the type of job actions that have helped other associations in NJ settle their respective contracts.
It is unfortunate that the Board’s unwillingness to offer a reasonable settlement has brought us to this point. Why does it have to be standard practice to impact students in order to get school boards to negotiate in good faith?
We are not asking for anything unreasonable. We are asking for fair value for the great job that we know we do and to maintain our current workload so that we can continue to provide the high quality education for our students for which we are known. To that end, we are hoping that the voice of the community will help the Board see reason so that we can settle the contract and avoid impacting the students.
If you live within Delaware Township, Raritan Township, East Amwell Township, Readington Township or Flemington, we urge you to let your HCRHS Board of Education representatives know that you believe the staff at Hunterdon Central is worth a fair contract and that the BOE needs to return to the table with us with an offer that we can accept.
Shari Calabrese, HCRHSEA President, and the Members of the HCRHS Education Association
September 19, 2016
Unofficial BOE Meeting Minutes
The BOE meeting started with presentations from different groups that conduct Superintendent searches. Johannah Ruberto briefly covered all the items on the Interim Superintendent’s Report, as can be seen in the Agenda.
During the first residential forum, Bonnie Berenger, a resident of the community, questioned why there is even a need for a single-school superintendent to begin with. The BOE responded that it is due to state law.
Linda Blutfield presented the items that are listed on the Agenda under Finance and Insurance. She added that the committee also discussed the current criteria for the school’s “Pay to Participate” system and is working on making sure it is consistent across all areas. The committee will continue to be looking into this. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Kathy Raborn presented the agenda items for the Curriculum and Technology Committee. She added that PARCC dates have been moved to the end of May, after the AP exams. There will be conflict on one day between the two exams which will affect a small number of students, and the Board and administration will make the necessary adjustments/accommodations for these students so that they will not miss either test. She mentioned that our score on NJ Monthly dropped from 44 to 57 and that this is because the criteria that they use to score schools was changed. She also added that some of the data that NJ Monthly uses to base their ratings on does not match our in-house data. She finished her report by stating that, this year, work is being done on figuring out different ways for teachers from various disciplines to work together better, students are taking more online quizzes, rather than paper and pen quizzes, and classes are doing more blogging than ever before. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Robert McNally presented the agenda items for the Student Activities Committee. In addition to the items on the agenda, he mentioned that no exact policy exists about how the different clubs and activities are funded, so the committee is looking to create a policy. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Jim Davidson presented the agenda items for the School/Community Relations Committee. In addition to the items that Jim presented on the agenda, the interim Superintendent, Johanna Ruberto, thanked the HCRHS Education Association for helping to work on the school calendar. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Karen Palestini Falk presented the agenda items for the Buildings and Grounds/Supplies and Equipment Committee. In regards to the item on the agenda, she mentioned that the original bid for flooring and equipment for the new Fitness Center was originally around $171,000. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Robert McNally presented the agenda items for the Transportation Committee. In addition to the items on the agenda, he mentioned that 6 requests were made to change bus stops which were discussed in committee meetings, along with a grievance from the bus drivers regarding health insurance. He also mentioned that a change in one of the bus routes will save the district money. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with no discussion.
Patrick Dugan presented the agenda items for the Human Resources Committee. The only thing added to the items on the agenda was to remove the statement regarding the third Back-to-School Night on page 12 of the agenda, which was an error as a third Back-to-School Night does not take place anymore. No discussion took place about the agenda items. All items were approved unanimously for this area of the agenda with the exception of several BOE members abstaining from a vote on professional development items that pertained to them personally, as is policy.
No one spoke during the Residential Forum at the end of the meeting.
Lastly, Robert McNally mentioned that on the way to tonight’s meeting, he had been approached by Jim Meert, a recently retired guidance counselor from HCRHS, who gave McNally a plaque to present to the BOE. The plaque was about Dr. David Meirs, a former principal who led the school to its first Blue Ribbon of Excellence. Meert had told McNally that it is important to recognize those people who have made the school what it is. The BOE accepted the plaque with gratitude.
After that, the meeting ended at around 8:30 pm.
The members of the Hunterdon Central Regional HS Education Association have been working under an expired contract since September of 2015. Our Association is made up of the teachers, counselors, nurses, secretaries, custodians and paraprofessionals who work at Hunterdon Central. While our Negotiations Team has been hard at work for a year and a half now trying to negotiate with the BOE for a fair and equitable contract to what other education associations have been receiving throughout the state, so far, they have been unsuccessful. Here are some of our concerns regarding the BOE’s lack of willingness to offer us a contract that is equitable to what has been offered and settled on in similar high-achieving school districts:
- The longer it takes to settle the contract, the more disheartening it is for our members. To our members, the BOE’s unwillingness to offer our team a fair and equitable contract is a sign that they do not value the work that we do and the many ways that we go above and beyond our required duties in order to support our students. It causes a huge lack of morale. Over the past year we have lost several excellent teachers to neighboring school districts due to this (and the higher salaries that they have been offered in those districts). Many more are talking about leaving.
- Our ability to maintain the standards that have helped us achieve our national blue ribbon status and our long-standing record of academic and extracurricular excellence will be impossible to continue if our association is forced to accept one of the BOE’s proposals regarding teaching load. How will it affect the value of your property if HCRHS loses its record of academic excellence?
- While the BOE has strived for 0% budget increases over the past seven years, cutting costs in every area (supplies, programs, staffing, operational costs), they have spent over $18 million in capital improvements over the past four years alone, and have another $8 million of capital improvements already approved for the future. And yet they are unwilling to offer our members a salary increase that is equitable to what is being offered to teachers in similar school districts. What does this say about their priorities?
Are you as concerned about some of their choices as we are? If so, please contact every member of the BOE and let them know this. Better yet, come to the June 20th BOE meeting and make a public statement. Ask them if the changes they are proposing to make to the employment contract are the type of changes that will attract and retain highly qualified teachers, or are they the type of changes that will cause teachers to want to leave after working at our school only a couple of years. Tell them that it’s time, after 7 years of working hard to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayer by cutting costs at every level, to be fiscally responsible in a different way: by investing in the very people who make Hunterdon Central the award-winning school district that people move into the area for. Urge them to preserve, or improve, the present working conditions and teaching load so that we can continue providing the support and services that we are known for, and that our students need in order to thrive in both high school and beyond.
President, HCRHS Education Association
PS: Please share this message with 10 people you know who live within Hunterdon Central’s sending districts (Flemington, Raritan Twp., Readington, East Amwell, and Delaware Twp.), and ask them to share it with 10 more people.
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