Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Proposal Freezes School Salaries

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Proposal Freezes School Salaries

Article excerpt

ENGLEWOOD - The Board of Education may shelve an outsourcing plan after eleventh-hour contract negotiations with a mediator produced an offer that would save nearly 100 secretaries' and classroom assistants' jobs in exchange for concessions.

The plan, which emerged from a five-hour bargaining session that ended around midnight on Tuesday, would save roughly $1.5 million by freezing salaries of teachers, assistants and secretaries and requiring them to make other concessions, school board President Stephen Brown said.

Brown said that if the union agrees to the terms, the board, which planned to vote on outsourcing tonight, would not need to contract with two private staffing firms to replace the district's 24 secretaries and 66 full-time teaching assistants.

"I don't know if we'll take a vote," he said. "We are working around the clock on this."

David Vignola, co-president of the Englewood Teachers Association, said the district was supposed to send him a complete proposal on Wednesday, including changes to contract language that could affect employee working conditions.

By 5 p.m., he said, he hadn't seen a final offer.

"I can't make a decision if I don't see a total proposal," he said. "I'm really frustrated right now. We're willing to give back, but every time it seems like it's not enough for them."

School officials say outsourcing would save about $2 million a year and cut a projected $4 million deficit in half, but union leaders have questioned if the projected deficit is accurate.

The outsourcing plan has caused controversy in Englewood since board members voted to start negotiating with the staffing companies. Hundreds of residents have packed school board meetings in protest. Signs urging the district not to fire the employees can be seen all over the city.

The NAACP has publicly supported the employees, most of whom are minority women working in a district composed largely of black and Hispanic students. The organization is planning a protest march to the school board meeting tonight.

The Tuesday night meeting was the first in which school officials and union leaders sat down at the bargaining table since the Englewood Teachers Association declared an impasse in late June and asked for a mediator.

The stalled talks prompted state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D- Teaneck, and Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, D-Englewood, to become involved. Johnson said they met on July 18 with school administrators, who told them outsourcing could be avoided if the teachers made concessions.

Johnson said he called the New Jersey Education Association the next day to urge that negotiations be restarted. Norman Danzig, a NJEA field representative who is working with the Englewood school unions, said he called a mediator on Tuesday morning and told him of the vote tonight.

Danzig said he walked out of the negotiating session discouraged. …

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