Deadlocked: Gloucester Twp. Teacher Negotiations Still at Impasse

Fact-finding is coming up in two months, but could an informal meeting before then bridge the contract settlement gap? Only if the school board and teachers union can actually agree to meet.

It’s become something of a routine by now. At every recent Gloucester Township school board meeting, a contingent of red-shirted teachers shows up. Usually someone talks about the stalled teacher contract negotiations, sometimes not.

But in truth, the board of education and the Gloucester Township Education Association (GTEA) teachers union are treading on unfamiliar ground. The two sides agree on very little, except this: No one can remember the last time negotiations took this long or progressed to this point.

“We have never been to this stage,” GTEA President Angel McDermott said at the Jan. 28 board meeting. “In my 16 years as president (and) my six years as negotiations chair before that, we have never reached this stage. This is new to all of us.”

The 600-plus teachers in the K-8 district’s 11 schools have worked without a formal contract . Negotiations are so stalled and mediation so mired that the school board and GTEA decided to proceed with fact-finding, a formal process where a mutually agreed upon fact-finder holds hearings and makes recommendations on a settlement.

But even that decision is caught up in disagreements. The school board says GTEA cancelled a planned Jan. 7 fact-finding meeting; GTEA says the school board didn’t allot enough time for a fact-finding meeting on Jan. 7 and it was prepared to meet more informally instead. With the meeting called off, the next available date is in late March.

And that’s just a very minor disagreement on a list of issues creating an impasse on the teacher contracts. As the school board and GTEA slog to find common ground, students have or will start to see the effects of the protracted negotiations as teachers begin job actions.

Teachers could begin upholding the letter of their employment agreement and refuse any extra work not required. That may mean no extended afterschool hours or no extra work to plan activities and trips.

The school board denied on Monday knowing whether job actions will occur, but a board member spoke out against it. While saying she has the utmost respect for Gloucester Township teachers, Linda Gilch said job actions only harm students.

“You’re not hurting us, you’re not hurting the board, you’re not hurting administrators by doing any type of job action—you’re hurting the children,” she said. “I understand you want a contract and I understand we need to come to a consensus. But you’re not taking anything away from us.”

A parent and teacher in another district, Debra Hines, countered that the board expects “250 percent” from its educators, who don’t like the job actions either.

“It’s crushing them to be lowered down to the level to treat (students) as minimally as possible,” she said. “If they start to give what they’re contractually supposed to give, and they pull back, it’s breaking their heart inside. They would prefer to have a contract and be treated with dignity and the respect they deserve for educating children.”

A ray of hope?

The impasse between the board and teachers shows little sign of cracking. Both sides stood resolute in laying the blame at the other’s feet, although they may meet again before the March fact-finding session.

“We would be willing to meet again to try to discuss it. But meeting also entails the parties compromising on some situations, and part of the difficulty we have is we haven’t been able to bridge that gap,” John Wade, school board solicitor, said.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where we have 2-percent cap, we have restrictions on us now the likes of which we’ve never had before. So, we came to the table and said we have certain restrictions and we need to operate within those restrictions. You folks didn’t take that position.”

The school board didn’t approach its 2-percent cap in budget talks, McDermott retorted.

“Do you want to settle the contract for 2 percent?” Wade shot back. “I’m a little frustrated because we’re hearing this now. The reality is you’re not willing to settle for 2 percent. You’ve told us that.”

McDermott later said GTEA and the school board are “approximately 2 percent” apart on their demands for the contract. She also acknowledged there are unspecified school-board positions that the GTEA will not agree to.

“Yes, compromises need to be made, but we have to see where that will lie,” she said.

The next Gloucester Township Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at Lewis Middle School. If recent history is any indication, the room will once again be filled with teachers wearing their signature red GTEA polo shirts.

Darren Gladden February 08, 2013 at 05:42 PM
See Paul now I can understand how some people take you the wrong way ...;-)..... What happen when somethings happen to someone let's say out of the blue is it not us as a whole to help them people back to life . I say stop with all the me me stuff understand you are sounding like them just look at me .........Just care , I do http://youtu.be/TB54dZkzZOY
Chris February 08, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Paul, that figure is for a 23 year veteran. What about the new teachers who are just out of college and are making less than half of that? Master's Degrees are not being paid for any more. With the current standard in the state, a Master's is becoming all the more necessary. I'm glad that you were able to do for your children what you could, obviously in home schooling the since that would constitue the, "lion's share," but most cannot do so. I don't agree that parents should not be involved and I wish more were. You say that after 23 years their compensation is adequate but you fail to take into account that the purchasing of school supplies falls on the teacher much of the time and they will spend thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket to teach. Not to mention the students who are financially strapped and teachers need to provide even the basics for them. Not everyone is in the same boat as you. My congratulations in your success, now let's give everyone the tools to be as successful.
l t Paine February 08, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Next Board meeting Feb. 25 at Lewis School 7pm. Should be interesting contract impasse, Budget transfers, and questions not answered. As someone said earlier a Keystone Cops sideshow.
Schu February 08, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Nobody who works for GT schools would dare to speak out against the wasteful board because they are afraid they will be transferred, fired and unemployed by the end of June. Everyone keeps their mouth shut and nobody gets hurt.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 06:44 PM
The spending per student in out HS district is $16,000 per student. If teachers are spending their own money for supplies and we can't supply a good education here at those numbers then, as I've said elsewhere, it's time to scrap the system and start over. Religious schools, private schools, and charter schools are a good starting point. Our system has failed us, we can't compete on the world stage, it's time to face the music. I am not interested in throwing more good money after bad. I will parrot the same line we hear over and over, "It's for the children." Yes, it is for the children and we owe them a good education, so let's get something that works and give up on the idea that more money is always the answer because it never is.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Darren, you're wrong on this one. I've done more than my fair share already. I paid taxes for years without a break and nothing in the way of a rebate and never used the system I was paying for. That means I was paying to put other children through the school system while my wife and I sacrificed the possibility of additional income to stay at home and school our own kids. My kids...my responsibility. Just Care, Darren.
Chris February 08, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Paul, the High School district is not what is being discussed here. Out of the $16,000 per student that you say is being spent on the HIGH SCHOOL students, that entails such items like: desks, books, school lunches, etc. That has nothing to do with the teachers who are needed to instruct these students. As a parent who did not use the public school system and opted for alternative educational outlets for your children, that was your prerogative and you really have no place to say that the system has failed. For most of these students, the system is already going above and beyond for them. If you don't want to pay more taxes, without your rebate, then vote the budget down next time you vote.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Chris, high school, elementary school, whatever...my point is that we are spending a load of money to educate these kids without much ROI. What could you do with $16,000 to educate a child for one year? And you say that the teachers are not paid out of that...you better do your homework on this. That's the per student cost in our district that is being spent. Of course the teachers are paid out of that. The point is, how much does it cost to educate one child for one year? As for the failure of the school system; I have paid for it my whole life and I have as much right as anyone else to pass judgment on it. It didn't just fail, it's been a long time in the making. Get out and see the world, Chris, we're failing our young people. Ask over at Camden County College...75% of the HS graduates coming in have to take remedial classes. How is it working out for them and us, Chris? The rebate I mentioned was what the districts paid to religious school students if they were unable to provide them with bus service. My point was I never asked for anything nor did I ever get anything...I just paid and paid and paid.
Chris February 08, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Paul, what kind of return on investment are you looking for? You talk about doing the homework, and yet you know nothing of how much is spent per student in the district in question. You say that 75% of the CCC students are taking remedial courses, is that 75% entirely made up of students from Gloucester Twp.? It probably isn’t. It is a county wide institution which allows prospective students from outside the county attend classes. You speak of failing our young people, yet you refuse to help the teachers who are in a position to do good by them. I’m not hearing any propositions of solutions from you Paul, just complaints that you are taxed to high Heaven. I have been out in this world and your generation is failing the young people today. Where have the jobs all gone? It’s not for lack of qualified people coming out of college. These qualified people I speak of are the products of your, “failed system.” Yes, you paid and paid and paid, you had no choice. Please tell me what kind of return on your investment you are looking for. Were you expecting all the students to come to your house with baked goods and say, “Thank you so much! If it weren’t for you I would be out on the streets.”? I will look into the numbers on the subject here. If you know of a way to save this failed system I’m all ears! If you have an alternative system that will not cost the taxpayers any more money, again I’m all ears!
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Hey Chris, ROI - kids that score higher than 25 out of 34 in math against their peers (other countries) and, ultimately, their competitors worldwide. I believe it would be true to say that our students used to score at the top. So, Chris, it's not my obligation to help the teachers. They get paid for that and I have my own job to help pay their salaries, along with the fact that I raised and educated my own six children; I think I did my part. As for the cost of educating students...I've done the homework...it's $16,000 per student in this district for high school. That entails the whole cost and it's quite high with a poor ROI. This discussion is getting circular so, as for my views and what I've done or suggested...Here's my blog page: http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/users/paul-j-dibartolo/blog_posts?page=1 You can look through it. There are two pieces on education; one two-parter and one five-parter. If you are serious about discussing the state of our educational system, I'm your huckleberry. If you're not willing to do the homework, as you accuse me, then let's let it rest. See the next post for the individual links to the educational blogs I've written.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 10:35 PM
Chris, here are the seven individual links to my blogs on education. http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/the-state-of-education-part-i http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/the-state-of-education-part-ii http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/you-do-the-math http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-i-can-we-talk-about-our-education-problems http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-ii-when-is-16k-per-year-for-education-not-enough http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-iii-exxonmobil-wants-to-solve-this-problem http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-iv-improving-ap-test-scores-by-138-percent http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-v-the-ap-tests
Chris February 09, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Paul, I will be back after I read through all your stuff. You may have some good ideas and I'm praying over here that you do. If so, I wish you could have brought some of them to light earlier. It could have save us some serious mud-slinging.
Joe Kearney February 10, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I worked for Gloucester Twp Public Schools for over 9 years and was fired by the school board and John Bilodau for not calling out sick while I was in a COMA! I have the paper work to back it up. That whole system over there is messed up they fire sick people all the time. They have a special hack doctor they send you too in Marlton, I was cleared to go back to work by University of Penn doctors to go back to work. They sent me to some quack named Tim Pinsky http://bestmedconsultants.net. They do what ever they want when they want. There are so many things gone on over there it would amaze most of you.
l t Paine February 10, 2013 at 08:31 PM
There is very isn't anything this Board or Bilodeau can do that would suprise me. Wait I'm wrong there is one thing that would suprise me, THE RIGHT THING!
BrianT February 15, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Fact finding means the union is looking at other districts around the state to argue a comparable settlement. Can't argue with that. GT has far fewer administrators than most districts this size (even when they were fully staffed) and pays them far less. All of the administrators who left in the past year are making more money than they did in GT. The BOE is beyond cheap compared to other districts locally and despite property taxes, NJ has similar per pupil spending to PA where property taxes are lower. It's not the teachers' fault your taxes are high - it's the tax system.
Didjaknow February 15, 2013 at 04:43 PM
I agree, the tax system puts the local taxpayers at odds with their local school system and that is just a bad system. As far as the people that left GT to other positions- people don't leave tenured positions for a few extra bucks. If you have any teachers in your famly, they will tell you that. They ran from a superintendent that has no clue and a school board that is out of control. Our kids are suffering for it.
True Dat February 15, 2013 at 05:24 PM
But. BrianT, virtually every administrator in the GT district is excessive cost to taxpayers, in my opinion, because of the redundancy that exists by having separate administrations for our high schools and our K-8 schools.
True Dat February 15, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Fact Finding is more than a union thing. A Fact Finder is a supposedly neutral third party hired by the state. He takes arguments that are presented to him from both the union and the administration, and makes objective recommendations. Problems with this: 1)The recommendations are not binding; 2)Due to Christie cutbacks, there are only two Fact Finders in the state. With hundreds of NJ districts with expired teacher contracts, it takes months and months from when arguments are presented until recommendations are given. This situation, along with the legal restraints against teacher strikes, gives school boards all the leverage, and zero incentive to bargain in good faith to settle contracts.
BrianT February 15, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Oh absolutely, they did! I was just noting that GT salaries are lower than the average rate and that people who leave generally do better elsewhere. Too many people crying here about how much everyone makes.
BrianT February 15, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Agreed - the current administrations can't make that merger happen though. There are two school boards, too. Talk to them about making that happen. Even still - if the two merged, you'd still need a lot of administrators to make things work. Just because people don't know what administrators do all day, doesn't mean they aren't needed.
Roger Delgado February 15, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Does anyone have more information about the after school tutoring program that as abruptly ended this week because of budget misappropriations? My child came from school and told me the SNAP program ended becasue "they ran out of money". This was confirmed by district employees. How can a program like this simply run out of money when they have a fixed set of children for a fixed period of time? How many other programs have been cut because of the district administration's incompetience. As a township resident I am concerned we can't manage a simple fiscal ledger. As a parent I am outraged that any of my children come home saying the school ran out of money to help him. Where are the school boards priorities? Where did the money for this program go? Looking at the last meeting's minutes hundreds of thousands of dollars were moved around into "Misc Admin" accounts. What are these?
Paul J. DiBartolo February 16, 2013 at 12:52 AM
The school system here is officially a disaster. The WOW Science Camp is being offered for children ages 5 through 14 for 8 weeks in the summer for $3167. So, we pay outrageous taxes to have our kids educated and then are told that if we really want our kids to succeed we probably should think about shelling out over three grand so they can learn what they didn't learn all year in school.
Stache's Minion February 16, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Yes Paul our town is a mess. We steal from our children then assassinate those who try to expose it. Don't look behind the curtain folks, we can't have that. The Great Stache will not be pleased.
l t Paine February 21, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Money is constantly moved from account to account almost every month. Makes you wonder how they have that much extra money? Is the Budget real or are accounts padded so that Administration and the Board can buy and do the things THEY want? The Fiscal year for the District ends June 30 pay attention to April and May Board minutes for Budget Transfers and the end of the year buying spree. Last year they moved enough around at the end of the year to buy a Backhoe. You would think an item that exspensive would have been budgeted for. Kind of hard to believe Bilodeau and the Board crying that they need more money when you watch the Budget shell game.
Sybil Evans February 22, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Your clapping because your buddy josh asked you to support his post. So like a good puppy you slapp your hands together. Don't forget to shake your pom poms.
Sybil Evans February 22, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Darren ironic you would ask anyone to vote when your nickname is "Just Vote I Don't Gladden" inquiring minds want to know did you even vote when you were on the ballot? Rumor has it you only voted in 2 elections out of 48 public elections in Gloucester Township in the last 10 years. Your primary and your general elections. Seems you like telling others to vote, but you don't. Now thats the type leadership you bring to the table. Poor choices, poor attitude and even more poor voting record.
M February 24, 2013 at 05:23 AM
GT residents need to keep pushing the board to give them answers. Parents need to pay attention and ask questions. Where is your money really going? Do you see it in your child's school? So many comments blame the teachers and feel they don't deserve anything, but these teachers are educating and caring for your children. They don't even have the resources most other districts have in the classroom. Many comments are so untrue.They don't have summers off. They have July and August off, and that's if they're not working another job. August is spent in the classroom preparing for the upcoming school year. So, maybe they have off a month...that's 4 weeks vacation...plus holidays during the year, UNPAID! They also work past their contracted 6.5 hrs. It takes more than a 1/2 hr prep time to plan, prepare, grade, call parents, write notes, and take care of anything else that involves students and the school day.The district's money mess isn't the teachers' fault.
M February 24, 2013 at 05:26 AM
For those who bash teachers, check this out... Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work10 months a year. It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do,babysit.We can get that for less than minimum wage.That’s right. Let’s give them $3 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school.That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day,maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.However, remember they only work 180 days a year.I am not going to pay them for any vacations.LET’S SEE…That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on. My calculator needs new batteries.) What about those special education teachers and the ones with master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour.That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here.There sure is!The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student– a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!
l t Paine February 24, 2013 at 05:35 AM
Just looked at Monday's School Board meeting agenda and guess what? Suprise, suprise the shell game continues, more budget transfers. Keep moving the money around until people lose track, and we still get to look forward to the May, June buying spree.Hard to believe they have all this extra money in these accounts that they can move money around every month. Wonder what other surprises Bilodeau and the Board have that's not on the agenda. You have to know they wil try to slip something by most. Time to bring this Board and Bilodeau into the light.
l t Paine February 27, 2013 at 06:02 AM
Do you think the Board and Bilodeau are finally willing to start doing the right thing?


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