BOE Tentatively Approves RPEA Contract. Prep Periods Still May Be An Issue.

The August Board Of Education (BOE) meeting, school board and negotiating committee member Troy Gerten announced that a tentative agreement has been reached between the BOE and both the Roselle Park Education Association (RPEA) and the Roselle Park Custodial Association (RPCA). The three-year Collective Bargaining Agreements are for the period from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2021.

Mr. Gerten read from a prepared statement and recounted to an almost empty audience a summary of actions so far. He stated, “Negotiations began several months ago with an exchange of financial information, health benefit information, and a discussion on negotiations protocol. The parties met regularly until mid-July. Early in the process, the board and the association exchanged written proposals that included the terms and conditions of employment, compensation items, and health benefits.”

Salary guides were being worked on and once agreed upon by all parties, it is expected that both the RPEA and the RPCA will hold votes to ratify their respective agreements this month.

Mr. Gerten said that a full report on the tentative agreements and salary guides will be provided to the school board prior to a vote by the BOE.

Currently, the terms of the agreements are confidential but one aspect that needs to be addressed is the preparation periods, known as prep periods, for elementary school teachers.

Earlier this school year in October of 2017, parents approached the school board at a BOE meeting concerned about a change in the class schedules of their children which resulted in less instructional time for some classes including music and art – an average of 10 minutes less. Parents stressed the importance of classroom time for the benefit of students.

The source of this change was due to Article 10, section D, sub-section 1 of the 2015-2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the BOE and RPEA. It reads:

“Elementary classroom teachers: Seven (7) periods per week. A period is considered to be of at least thirty (30) minutes.”

Previous contracts – up to to the 2012-2015 contract – had only five (5) prep periods of at least 30 minutes.

Even though this change was in effect since September 2015, apparently no one in the elementary schools noticed nor enforced it. At the beginning of this school year, somehow, it was brought to the attention of the RPEA stewardship that the seven prep periods were not being enacted. This caused the school district administration – once it was brought to their attention – to have to adhere to the contract. The only way to change it back to the five prep periods meant having to renegotiate the contract and that never came to fruition. So, to the dismay of parents and guardians – at least for the 2018-19 school year -, there would be less instructional time for students.

In order to visualize the change, tables below give a rudimentary breakdown of total instruction time for two (2) scenarios. The breakdown, which includes the agreed upon 30-minute lunch period, shows as much as one (1) hour less of instruction time between having five and seven prep periods.

For five (5) 30-minute prep periods and five 50-minute lunches, there would be 25 hours and 50 minutes of available instruction time. Increasing the perp periods to seven (7) would leave 24 hours and 50 minutes for classroom instruction.

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How this issue is going to be addressed remains confidential but both parties have had the matter brought to their attention. The time to do it is now since the agreement is in negotiation. The outcome appears to be that either prep periods go back to five – in order to return increased instructional time – or publicly explain the benefit of seven prep periods to the education of elementary school students.

The vote for the Collective Bargaining Agreements is expected at a BOE meeting in September or October.