LAWRENCE: Board of education calls special meeting to ratify new pact with teachers

By James McEvoy, Special Writer
LAWRENCE — The Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting for Nov. 23 with the expectation of ratifying its tentative agreement with the Lawrence Township Education Association.
In late September, the two sides announced a tentative agreement, but details have been scant as the two sides have yet to ratify the deal. Board President Kevin Van Hise said by the time the meeting is held next week, he is hopeful the LTEA leadership would ratify the deal.
Board member Laura Waters further noted the LTEA negotiations committee signed a memorandum of understanding and will recommend its members ratify the deal. In October, district officials announced a delay caused by verification of salary guides that was not expected to jeopardize the agreement.
The tentative pact came after a Sept. 9 meeting with a state-appointed fact-finder. The contract expired June 30, 2014, and LTEA members, which include teachers, maintenance, custodial and security staff, have been working under the terms of that contract.
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 Public Employment Relations Commission appointed-mediator twice before the teachers union asked for a fact-finder to be appointed in April.
District officials have also announced a preliminary response after a parent recently criticized the district transportation after a communication snafu.
Phil Kearns reported to the district in October that his daughter and wife were approached by two strangers saying they would be taking over the student’s bus route the following morning.
Mr. Kearns said though he had received a brief note from the district that his daughter’s route would be changing, he was given no indication the change would involve a third-party transportation company.
Superintendent Crystal Edwards said standard operating procedures have been reiterated to staff and that the district had initiated new protocols including a complaint and concern tracking system as well as new procedures with third-party vendors.
“There have been lots of proactive actions taken on our part,” Dr. Edwards said. “The bottom line is we’re not a perfect school district. I’d love it if we were, but we’re not, and we do make mistakes. What’s most important thing is that if there’s no learning that comes from that mistake then it really was a bad mistake.” 