Little Egg Harbor Board of Education in Negotiations Over Teachers Contracts

Jun 20, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson Members of the Little Egg Harbor Township Teachers Association wore black to the June 18 board of education meeting to symbolize the fact their contracts are up on June 30 and they are in state-mandated mediation.

A symbol of the impasse between the Little Egg Harbor Township Teachers Association union and the administration was made clear in the choice of clothing worn to the June 18 board of education meeting. Some members of the board, administration and non-aligned staff wore red, including Superintendent Melissa McCooley; a few minutes before the start of the meeting, members of the teachers union filed in, all wearing black.

It was a silent protest over the lack of a contract, said Nora Maloney, president of the LEHTTA. The union contract is due to expire June 30, and the union and the board are in state-sponsored mediation. She read a prepared statement to a reporter: “The certificated staff have done a lot to support the district, and we hope the presentations tonight by the association show the board members the value of the certified staff and we hope persuades them to reach a fair deal outside of mediation.”

On Tuesday, Business Administrator Nicholas Brown said he was not going to comment on the substance of the negotiations but said, “We are committed to finding a fair deal for staff and the taxpayers.”

Brown said the board has settled contracts with the administrators (principals and directors), the non-aligned staff (non-union) and the non-affiliated staff (non-certificated – occupational therapists, etc.). These members of staff have agreed to change their health insurance from Direct 15, which required  $15 co-pays, to 20/30 Health Care, which requires $20 or $30 co-pays. They have also agreed to the state’s  “Chapter 78 public employees amendment tier 4, adopted in 2011 that requires a certain amount of contribution, based on salary, to their benefits. In return they receive the county average salary increase of 3 percent annually,” said Brown. The administrators signed a three-year contract while the other groups’ contracts are renewed annually.

During the meeting, the board heard four presentations. Jacqueline Truzzolino, director of elementary education, gave the HIB (harassment, intimidation, bullying) grade report that came back from the state. The state rated the schools in eight categories in the initiative to lessen HIB incidents, including staff training, positive behavior programs and student performance. The overall score for the three schools: Frog Pond Elementary, George J. Mitchell Elementary and the Early Childhood Center averaged 76 points out of a possible 78.

In concert with the HIB report, Superintendent McCooley said the need for disciplinary actions has decreased dramatically. “Overall in 2017 there were 877 disciplinary measures taken, and this year there were 389,” she said. She credited Truzzolino’s initiatives in implementing positive behavior supports and character education.

John Acampora, director of curriculum and instruction, gave an overview of the year’s accomplishments. The program to include science coaches last summer has reaped rewards in implementing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) into the curriculum, and this summer he hopes to convince some teachers to participate as language arts coaches. Teachers who take on these coaching positions receive additional professional development credit and a small stipend and accept the challenge to serve as mentors for the rest of the teaching staff.

This past year, the LEH district served as the coordinator for 11 neighboring school districts with STEAM coaches. As the result of grants, every student in grades three through six have a Chromebook laptop for their own use.

Flat-panel instruction boards (computers) are now in all kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

This summer the school will begin professional development in “Fundations,” a phonics-based reading program, and the Gifted and Talented STEP curriculum. STEP stands for Student Enrichment Program. The premise is to teach “21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking” to those children who require accelerated or “compact” learning to remain engaged in the classroom.

Children who are targeted through intelligence tests in second grade are given two 40-minute STEP sessions a week; those in third grade receive three 40-minute sessions a week.

This summer, the LEHT district will make professional development courses available during its Summer HEAT (Heightening Educational Achievement Together) events. These workshops are open to anyone who wishes to attend, not just LEH staff. The complete schedule is on the LEH staff section of the district web page lehsd.k12.nj.us/edu.

Teachers Amanda Clifton and Carol Heck gave an end-of-year presentation on Pride/Fast events, a dazzling array of community-involved events including an open house and walk to end opiate abuse, family nights, bubbles for autism, family reading nights, and using music to enhance education. The education association also received a $17,510 grant to develop garden boxes and host an art gala.

Trina Reigelman, energy specialist, gave presentations on what students are doing in the schools to promote energy conservation. Besides obvious things such as turning off the lights when leaving the room, turning off water taps after washing to conserve water, and putting on a sweater and lowering the thermostat in the winter, children in a video shouted, “Step away from the video games” and “Get off the electronics and have a conversation.”

The superintendent’s report noted the last day of school is June 20. She mentioned that the board of education received its master board certification for the 2017-18 school year and encouraged members to attend workshops this summer to keep that certification. A final “Sit with the Supe” (informal discussion with the superintendent in the board office at 1 p.m.) is on June 20. “We have a busy summer ahead, and I’m looking forward to next year,” she said.

“That’s it?” asked board President August Daleo.

“Yes.”

Daleo’s message was for McCooley, who at the last board meeting was hired to lead both Pinelands Regional as well as the LEH district. “We’re very happy with our shared-services contract, and we know you will do well for Pinelands as you do for Little Egg,” he said.

The next board of education meeting is July 16 at 6 p.m.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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