Agreement Reached in Teacher Contract Dispute

Hopatcong school district, education association agree to health care terms.

The teacher contract dispute between the school board and the Hopatcong Education Association that has been holding up college recommendation letters has come to an end.

The sides resolved the dispute over contract language about health care contributions last week when both sides signed "a letter of understanding," Superintendent Dr. Charles Maranzano said Tuesday.

"We agreed to recognize the current state law as the valid language governing state health benefits," he said.

He said the master contract will be finalized Wednesday when Board President Cliff Lundin and HEA President Susan Hill sign the contract on behalf of their negotiating committeees.

"That brings us to close this chapter," Maranzano said.

The teachers will also be getting paid for their withheld 1.95 percent pay raise that was due at the start of the school year.

Hill said it's a "good feeling" that the dispute ended, where now teachers will resume participating in volunteer hours, including writing recommendation letters.

"People are relieved," she said. "They didn't want any conflict. There should not have been any issue."

Some students have said that they have been denied college recommendation letters from teachers who declined to work extra unpaid hours during the job action.

Rich Lavery, a student liaison to the school board, said he was denied letters after asking two teachers. 

"It was a very frustrating experience, and rather upsetting since the teachers who we consider our friends, first and foremost, because we have that close personal bond with them, weren't able to help us further our education because of what the unions were telling them to do," he said.

Although Lavery said he didn't miss any application deadlines because he didn't apply early anywhere, some of his other peers, including senior Jake Parisi, missed three early action deadlines.

Willa Scantlebury, whose son, Trent, is a senior, said her son was also denied a letter during the job action, and believes it is unfair that the students were affected by the dispute.

"It should never ever come to this," she said. "It was a really bad call, and something should be done so that these calls can never be made again, where they're utilizing the kids."

Hill said that the job action was necessary because of the scheduled pay raises that were agreed upon were not met. 

"We did what we felt we had to do, which was give up all volunteering because we were not being paid what we should have been paid to work in the classrooms, so we weren't going to do anything extra when we weren't getting what we were due. We now have what we agreed in the contract, and we can move forward."

Hill and Maranzano both said Principal Noreen Lazariuk, Director of Guidance Gina Cinotti, and Maranzano all wrote letters for students who needed them during the job action.

"Any child who wanted a letter, could get a letter," Hill said.

The dispute, which started last spring when the board made adjustments to the contract due to new state law requirements for health care contributions, caused both sides to file unfair labor practices against the other. 

The HEA was scheduled to have their first hearing on the unfair labor practice on Thursday, but with the agreement, both parties have dropped the complaints and will not move forward with the hearings.

Maranzano called it "bittersweet" that the contract was resolved, saying the past months have been difficult, but he's "satisfied" with the ending.

"I'm satisfied that both parties have now defined their respective positions and that the matter of negotiations and/or agreements is finalized," he said. "I'm satisfied that we met the legal requirements and that both sides have agreed to their respective positions and recognized the positions of the other side."

He added that the dispute did not benefit anyone, and that all of the energy should have been brought to the classroom.

"If our focus is to be students, and children, and teaching, and learning, then we ought to be putting this kind of energy into professional development," he said.

Lynn Anne Cutler December 12, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Thank God. Hope they don't tie up our teachers' back pay for too long!
ocean111 December 12, 2012 at 12:42 AM
just in time for christmas
The "Original" Hopatcong Mom December 12, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Whoopie Doo~ What about our ESP's? Our aides (who go above and beyond on a daily basis with NO extra money) and our cafeteria workers and our custodians?? Where is their RAISE??? 3 YEARS WITHOUT A CONTRACT!!! The school board should be embarrassed and appalled at the way they treat some of the most valuable employees Hopatcong has to offer!!!! Do you really think our aides are only worth $1 more than minimum wage? I think the board should step in their shoes for just one day....it's a pathetic wage for the amount of work!! You have no problems throwing money around on frivolous things but when it comes to VALUABLE employees, you chew them up and spit them out! I mean really...what's $15 hr? Nothing in 2012! Yet, you have aides there for 20 years making $15 hr and NO BENEFITS! Aides there for 5 years making $10 hr....the HOPATCONG BOARD OF EDUCATION SHOULD BE ASHAMED!!
Concerned Citizen December 12, 2012 at 01:09 PM
What this article did not mention is that the board had ALREADY SIGNED the contracts with the teachers and then tried to renege.
BeachBum December 12, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Hopatcong teachers wrong to use student college letters as leverage in contract talks: http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2012/12/hopatcong_teachers_wrong_to_us.html#incart_river_default
ss December 12, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I hope that all volunteer parent classroom aids, withhold their volunteer hours! But that would also be to the detriment of the students. And unions wonder and complain about actions taken by Michigan's governor. I'm sure a lot of the parents of these kids would like to work at jobs where they got the kind of benefits the teachers do.
tliberty December 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Typical Union Bully tatctics......Punish those not involved and act like it is everybody else's fault!!!!! Way to go Michigan...Why should non union tempory workers have to pay UNION FEES AND DUES but recieve NO benefits or resouces from the UNIONS who are STEALING that money?????
Lurky Loo December 12, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Any child who wanted a letter could get one, but just not from you or any of the teachers, right Sue82k? A disgusting display of power over our children. But hey, you got your raise so its all good.
Hnj23 December 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I'm sorry to hear that writing recommendation letters is considered volunteering. All teachers have prep periods. I can't believe they can't use school time to complete these letters. Something this important should certainly be included as part of their day. This should never have been an issue and it's sad that students are the ones who suffered again. I'm glad the grownups have finally come to terms.
Giuseppe December 12, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Great job BOE! More handouts, raises and entitlements to an already over-paid staff. Hopatcong has the lowest test scores in Sussex County, the lowest graduation rate in Sussex County and yet the highest salary guide $$ in Sussex County. We produce a product equal to Camden, NJ. Does this make sense? Someone somewhere will have to hold the line on raises & benefits. But who? When will it stop? They keep draining the “taxpayer’s well” will the well ever run dry? Does anyone care?
Willa Scantlebury December 12, 2012 at 05:35 PM
"Any child who wanted a letter, could get a letter." . . . While a letter from the Principal or even the Superintendent might sound good, it doesn't cut it if the university wants letters from particular areas of study, such as math or science. Most kids reached out to these teachers who know them well enough, and long enough to acquire a truly personal letter. Glad it's over, but the whole mess has tarnished how parents feel about certain teachers and definitely the Teachers Union.
hopeful December 12, 2012 at 05:42 PM
A little off subject but has anyone heard anything about how we're going to make up the 2 weeks of missed school from Hurricane Sandy?
Lurky Loo December 12, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Hey concerned..where's your concern for the students who didn't get a recommendation for early decision?? Who cares who did what? Why was it taken out on our children and their chances to start their path to higher education?
Tammy December 12, 2012 at 06:04 PM
While I understand that these letters can be time consuming several things crossed my mind while thinking about it. To begin with, how many teachers would be where they are without the letters of recommendation they received? Would they have been able to attend their college of choice? Would they have been hired as a teacher? I wouldn't consider it to be a chore, something I should be compensated for, a contract bargaining chip, I would be honored to be asked to write a letter for one of my students. It would warm my heart that I had some small part in starting young adults on what would be a hopefully successful path. I would think any human being, but especially a teacher, would consider it their responsibility to do what we can to provide the next generation a good start.
L December 12, 2012 at 10:57 PM
You say you have no job benefits; however, as I see it, you have a job that has the same schedule as your children, you get weekends and long weekends off, you get holidays and summers off, you get to know the faculty and administration of the school, the in's and out's of the school system, whose class you want your children to be in, and you get paid for it. I'm sure that you knew the pay rate and the "benefits" of working in the school district when you took the job, but if you are still unhappy with the pay and "benefits", you can search for a job elsewhere.
Jen December 14, 2012 at 01:01 AM
I would like to know what is going on in our schools. I recently found out that there has been no nurse at Hudson Maxim School in at least a month and there is not going to be one for quite some time. Who is taking care of our children? What is the BOE answer to that?


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