Stafford Board of Education Labor Attorney Updates Public on Teacher Contract Negotiations

Oct 25, 2017

Following several presentations, including a PARCC testing analysis by Oxycocus School Director and data assessment manager Bill Wilkinson, and once the Stafford Township Board of Education blazed through its agenda, Joshua Smith may have asked the most two intriguing questions of the board’s meeting on Oct. 19.

First on his list, the school board candidate checked in with labor attorney Anthony Sciarrillo on the status of the current negotiations between the board and the Stafford Township Education Association. Sciarrillo explained to the standing-room-only audience inside the Stafford Room at the Oxycocus School that there had been some progress on the teacher salary guides.

“Last month, I was asked the same question, and I said that I had spoken to the NJEA representative, and in a conversation over the phone we had come to conceptual salary guides, but I had not yet seen the actual guides,” Sciarrillo said. “I got them that day, and we went over them that evening with the board committee and the committee approved those guides, which permitted the association to schedule a ratification vote. They did (have that vote), and they voted down the salary guides and the memorandum of agreement.”

Sciarrillo further explained that a mediation meeting had been scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26, “to wrap up any salary guides issues, if there were any. But we had a telephone conference – the NJEA representative, myself and the mediator – two days ago and she has determined, based upon where we are, that this will not come back to mediation and instead she will go to her supervisor and ask that it be moved to fact-finding.”

According to Sciarrillo, a fact-finder first will have to be selected, hopefully this week, and once all notes have been delivered to the fact-finder, he or she will make contact to schedule a date for an initial session in an effort to work out a contract deal. Sciarrillo said it’s likely that session will not occur until December.

“The likelihood is that we’ll hear from the fact-finder and get a date sometime in December,” he said. “And we’ll come back in December. I know it’s in the interest of both parties to come to a resolution, so we’ll roll our sleeves up when we get our first fact-finding date and hopefully get a resolution as soon as we can.”

Smith then turned his attention to board member Michael Benson and thanked him for his service to the school district, given Benson’s recent announcement that personal issues had forced him to discontinue pursuit of his re-election to the board. However, Smith raised an interesting point – because the deadline had passed, Benson wasn’t able to remove his name from the ballot. That technically means he still can be re-elected despite his decision not to campaign and, ultimately, return to the board come Jan. 4, when the board will reorganize for the new year. Smith also asked what the procedure would be following the Nov. 7 election should Benson get re-elected.

“If he were elected and chose not to assume that seat, it would be just like a vacated seat,” said Board Attorney Laura Benson. “So the board would convene and interview candidates, and then appoint somebody to take that seat until next November’s election. The seat wouldn’t go to the next-highest vote-getter.”

The Southern Regional Board of Education recently went through a similar process after longtime member Marilyn Wasilewski resigned from her position on the board in August. Southern’s board – on which Laura Benson sits as the attorney as well – interviewed several candidates before choosing to bring back R. Scott Zoladz, who had served on the board from 2007 to 2010.

If Michael Benson is re-elected, it’s likely the Stafford Township board would take the following month or two to pool several candidates, conduct interviews and make a selection on who would fill that seat. The individual selected would remain on the board through 2018, and the candidate elected next year would fill the seat for two years, completing the three-year term voted on for this year’s election, according to the attorney.

— David Biggy

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