Superintendent: Lengthy Negotiations a Sign of the Times
Kinnelon school district still in the process of negotiating with teachers.
The Kinnelon Education Association (KEA) and Kinnelon Public Schools Board of Education still have not reached an agreement on teachers' contracts, which the district began negotiating last year. But Superintendent Jim Opiekun said Kinnelon is not unusual in not having settled the contracts at this point when compared with other districts.
"There are many school districts, including Kinnelon, where negotiations are taking longer than usual. This is an unusual time when the factors of a 2 percent tax levy cap, ever increasing costs and drastically reduced state aid are severely limiting revenue," he said.
Nearby Montville and Bloomingdale school districts have also not yet settled teachers' contracts. Kinnelon has reached an agreement with the administrators' union and has planned in the 2012-13 school budget for reaching negotiation goals with the KEA.
KEA President Tom Shannon did not provide details on what is holding up the negotiations, but said he would share information once it is able to be made public.
Opiekun said the district has reached the "factfinding" stage of negotiations, and will be using a state-assigned mediator, whom the entities plan to meet with in June.
"The hope is to find a solution and what constitutes a fair settlement in these difficult times," he said.
According to the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), the state mediator meets with the union and board and after hearing both sides' arguments prepares a report that is made public within 10 days of the entities each receiving it. Neither entity has to accept the factfinding report, but if a settlement is not reached at that point, "super conciliation" becomes the next phase.
"This is more intensive mediation, and state law authorizes the super conciliator to 'utilize means and mechanisms, including but not limited to requiring 24-hour per day negotiations, until a voluntary settlement is reached,'" according to the NJSBA website.
The NJSBA's website also notes that if a contract expires before a new contract is agreed upon, the terms of the expired contract remain in effect until a settlement is reached.