LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP: School board, teachers union reach tentative agreement on new contract

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
The Lawrence Township Board of Education and the Lawrence Township Education Association have reached a tentative settlement, based on recommendations issued by a state-appointed fact-finder.
Specifics of the new agreement, which grew out of the Sept. 9 meeting with the fact-finder, are not available for public disclosure. The contract expired June 30, 2014, and LTEA members have been working under the terms of that contract.
The next step is for the union members to ratify the three-year contract and for the school board to approve it. The LTEA represents teachers, maintenance, custodial and security staff.
“The negotiations committee is thrilled to arrive at consensus with the LTEA on a contract that values the wonderful work of our staff, as well as the needs of our children, taxpayers and the Lawrence Township community,” said Laura Waters, who chaired the school board’s negotiations committee.
Fact-finding is one of the last steps in the negotiation process permitted by the Public Employment Relations Commission. School board and union negotiators typically try to hammer out a new contract themselves, but either side can declare an impasse and ask PERC for help in resolving the issues.
If the two sides cannot agree on the terms and conditions of a contract, the first step is to ask for a state-appointed mediator to step in. The mediator will help them work through the outstanding issues so they can reach an agreement.
When mediation does not work, either party can ask for fact-finding. PERC will appoint a fact-finder, who will meet with both parties. The fact-finder can make inquiries and investigations and hold hearings, all in private. The fact-finder will make a finding of facts and recommend the terms of a settlement, but the recommendations are non-binding.
The school board and teachers union’s contract negotiations teams met six times before the LTEA filed for mediation in October 2014. The two sides met with the state-appointed mediator twice before the teachers union asked for a fact-finder to be appointed in April. 