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Franklin Lakes Teachers Union, BOE Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

Franklin Lakes educators took to the streets Monday.
Franklin Lakes educators took to the streets Monday. Photo Credit: NJEA

A tentative four-year contract agreement was reached between the Franklin Lakes Board of Education and the Franklin Lakes Education Association early Tuesday morning.

Schools were closed Monday when nearly 270 educators walked out amid stalled contract talks.

"The agreement is subject to ratification by the parties," the Board said in a statement.

"The Board is prepared to move forward in the best interest of the school community and looks forward to the teachers returning to their classrooms."

The strike signaled the breakdown of negotiations between the borough Board of Education and the Franklin Lakes Education Association (FLEA), whose members have been working under an expired contract since July 2017.

“The students and community deserve better,” FLEA President Sharon Milano said. “My members, the teachers and support staff in our schools, deserve better. Time and time again this board of education has failed us.

"Although we are ready at any point in time to return to the table with the board, I cannot expect my members to settle for anything less than what they deserve.”

Schools Supt. Gayle Strauss wasn't immediately available for comment Monday morning, said her secretary, who confirmed that classes were scheduled to resume Tuesday.

The Board of Education released a statement, however ( see below ), calling the strike illegal and saying its lawyer would seek to have a judge order the teachers back to work.

"Although it appeared the parties were very close to mutually acceptable terms, today’s union action calls into question their commitment to resolving this dispute," the board statement says.

FLEA and the BOE recently received a report from the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC), the appointed fact-finder, that published just after Memorial Day.

The association has rejected the non-binding report, citing what it called regressive recommendations.

The association could be starting a third year under an expired contract in September if the issues aren't resolved.

"FLEA’s fight for affordable health care and a fair contract settlement that ensures stability and continued great schools for their students remain the pivotal issues," FLEA said in a news release.

"The members of the association remain committed to their students and school community. The students are their number one priority and they always will be," FLEA said. "Unfortunately, the parties have not reached a resolution in their negotiations."

FLEA protests

FLEA protests

The Franklin Lakes Board of Education released the following statement:

"Regrettably, members of the Franklin Lakes Education Association (the “Union”) today refused to report for work and instead participated in a strike. This illegal job action defies the instructions of Superior Court Judge James DeLuca and breaches the Union’s November 2018 agreement with the Franklin Lakes Board of Education (the “Board”). The Board, through its attorney, is seeking emergency court action ordering the teachers back to work.

"Despite the Union’s assertions, the Board has sought to engage in constructive dialogue throughout this process; it is the Union that has refused to meet unless the Board first agreed to certain pre-conditions. Most recently, the Board President and the Union’s representative from the New Jersey Education Association (the “NJEA”) met for direct negotiations on a number of occasions beginning in April and continuing through Sunday evening (last night, June 9). Although it appeared the parties were very close to mutually acceptable terms, today’s Union action calls into question their commitment to resolving this dispute. The Board nevertheless met with the Union’s representatives as scheduled at 9:00 am this morning and agreed to a follow up meeting for further negotiations.

"The health and safety of students is always the district’s primary concern. The district learned of the teachers’ strike early this morning and immediately initiated a reverse-911 call notifying parents. Any students who arrived at school were supervised by district administrators until released to a guardian. Elementary buses were cancelled before beginning their routes."

Surrounding districts such as Ridgewood, Allendale and Waldwick agreed to a lower, permanent cap on percentages paid by staff (26 percent), providing economic relief. Franklin Lakes' staff members pay as much as 35 percent of the premium.

The Board of Education has acknowledged on two separate occasions that they have the means to meet the association’s financial requests, FLEA said.

FLEA protests

FLEA protests

Instead of making a competitive offer, the BOE suggested to extend the contract proposal from 3 to 5 years, prolonging the financial losses felt by FLEA, the association said.

"Despite numerous appearances at Board of Education meetings, where association members have shared their financial struggles and a need for more reasonable levels of insurance contribution, the association was told that while the Board would like the FLEA to be the best paid teachers and support staff in the state, their primary concern is their taxes, and that association members should contact legislators instead," FLEA said.

Each Wednesday, there is a statewide show of solidarity called #RedforEd, where public educators act in support for legislation that will change the formula for insurance contributions, as well as grant “job justice” to support staff, such as our paraeducators and administrative assistants.

Members of the FLEA have also been writing to and calling legislators, urging them to pass these bills, the association said.

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