RPEA President Open To Talks On Elementary Prep Periods

Kathleen MacDonald, speaking as president of the Roselle Park Education Association (RPEA) and a part of the negotiating team for teachers’ union regarding the 2018-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE), stated that she and the association are open to what are called ‘sidebar’ talks to address prep periods but also wanted to clarify some matters on the RPEA side that could not be discussed during negotiations.

After reading the article “Saving Art & Music: RPEA Agreement Article 10(D)(1)” (link), Mrs. MacDonald spoke with the newspaper on some matters she wanted to share regarding elementary school teachers having seven (7) prep periods instead of five (5). Up until 2015, elementary school teachers had five (5) prep periods of at least 30 minutes. It was changed to seven for the 2015-2018 CBA but was not adhered to until the start of the 2017 school year.

When contract negotiations began for the 2018-2021 CBA with the RPEA, prep periods were once again a factor. In the end, the prep periods for elementary school teachers remained at seven. The BOE stated that they tried to address prep periods but “despite the board’s efforts, a change in the contract language that would affect the art classes could not be included in the party settlement.”

Additionally, Sue Guercio, the Roselle Park School District (RPSD) business administrator stated at the November 20th BOE meeting that the final typed Collective Bargaining Agreement was not yet signed by both parties. The school was then asked if matters could still be negotiated, the BOE responded that there is always an opportunity.

Mrs. MacDonald stated that the Memorandum of Agreement is signed, but even though the final 2018-2021 CBA was not signed, it is, in effect, ratified although signatures are still required for the agreement to be official. The RPEA president did state that sidebar agreements can be made in addition to the teachers’ contract. She clarified, “They [the BOE] may not know the correct wording to use [but] the contract is finalized. They still want to negotiate which would be a sidebar, not opening the contract, but a sidebar.”

The RPEA president went on to say, “[The agreement] hasn’t been signed yet because we were waiting for the attorney to give us the final copy. We got the final copy [but] there’s still one more correction to be made just on a date . . . Once that’s corrected, then it’ll be signed by both parties, but it was ratified by both parties . . . It’s been going back and forth. It’s something that should have been settled in negotiations. It was not settled in negotiations.”

Mrs. MacDonald stated that the RPEA presented the school board with possible schedules keeping the seven prep periods that would give 40 minutes to music. She remarked, “We were told it would take away from language arts and math. So that is their choice to take their school day and give less time to art and music.”

The RPEA president explained that both the middle school and high school teachers both are given two prep periods a day.

A review of the CBA does show that but the difference is that there is no time constraint for those prep periods as there are for the elementary school teachers. THose schools teachers have wording in the contract that gives a 30 minute minimum for each prep period.

Additionally, the high school has a seven-hour-and-30-minute  school day with a 30-minute lunch period. The middle school has a six-hour-and-forty-minute school day with a 40-minute lunch. The elementary schools have a six-hour-and-30-minute school day with a 50 minute-lunch.

Just comparing instruction time, the elementary schools already have less built-in possible instruction time. On a daily basis, the elementary schools have 20 fewer minutes a day than the Roselle Park Middle School and one (1) hour and 20 minutes less than the Roselle Park High School. Weekly the elementary schools have 20 hours and 20 minutes of instruction, the middle school has 30 hours, and the high school has 35 hours.

Mrs. MacDonald spoke about the negotiations and the Memorandum of Agreement stating, “We [the RPEA] were agreeable to [five prep periods] and the board wanted four (4) prep periods. We could not agree to that because the elementary teachers on our team, and I could understand it, could not fathom going a day without a prep . . . We could not agree to four.”

It was pointed out to the RPEA president that the signed Memorandum did originally have four prep period, but someone during negotiations replaced it with five (5) prep periods are 225 minutes total. She reviewed the document and responded, “That’s not my writing that wrote ‘five’ but then again somebody else wrote up [the agreement] too.”

In going over her notes, Mrs. MacDonald did state that the RPEA would have gone five prep periods but wanted 240 minutes instead of 225. She clarified, “That was the reason. We would have agreed to five [preps] at a maximum of 240 minutes – an extra 30 minutes.”

A review of the 2012-2015 agreement showed that the five (5) prep periods had a maximum of 210 minutes which comes out to 42 minutes per prep period; at 225 minutes prep periods would be 45 minutes and at 240 minutes they would become 48-minute prep periods.

After reviewing the memorandum and discussing the negotiations, the RPEA president did state, “We are agreeable to sitting down but 240 was on the table and I believe the 240 would have to be there.”

If anything, this public statement by the RPEA opens the door for further sidebar negotiations to have art and music return to their original instruction time.

Participation from parents at school board meetings and through formal channels of communication next year will be an essential component in having that move forward. Public comment portions at BOE meetings allow for input as well e-mails and phone calls.

The schedule for school board meetings next year can be found on the RPSD website (link). Contact information for board members can be found in the BOE section (link).