To the Editor:
At the Board of Education meeting on September 23 many community members and Princeton Public School (PPS) educators asked some very difficult questions of the Board during the public comment section of the meeting. Understandably the board did not answer those questions at the time or engage in a back-and-forth. All the same, those questions were not rhetorical and deserve a response at the upcoming Board meeting on October 28. Here are four that I heard that I think are particularly important to answer.
1) Since January the Board has authorized approximately $1 million to be spent for settlement of special education claims. Without breaching confidentiality please explain the nature of these claims. How much has been budgeted for these claims for 2014-15 and where is that amount in the current budget?
2) Why didn’t the Board budget any pay increases for athletic coaches and faculty advisors? Why isn’t anything offered for the next two years either? Are teachers expected to fill these positions no matter how low the hourly wage? Could this put these programs at risk?
3) We heard that the Chapter 78 law (that dictates benefit contribution amounts) will sunset at the end of this school year. Twelve districts in New Jersey have negotiated these amounts like the PREA proposes to do for years 2 and 3 of this contract. Does the Board intend to litigate if the PREA does not accept the Board’s interpretation of this law?
4) The Board insists that negotiating the second and third year of the contract differently than the first is illegal. In that case why not frame the negotiations as two separate contracts — one for 2014-15 and a second for 2015-17? This will allow the bargaining of premium contributions for the second contract without violating the Board’s interpretation of Chapter 78. This is essentially what the Board has done with the administrators.
I also asked the Board a question and I would very much like to hear an answer. Is the entire Board, each and every member, in agreement with the negotiation team’s style and substance in this year’s bargaining? For example, the interpretation of Chapter 78, and the unwillingness to negotiate two contracts?
Editor’s Note: The writer is a teacher at Princeton High School.