Princeton Public Schools Sports Coaches Say They Will Not Work With Students This Summer

footballTwo dozen coaches in the Princeton Public Schools system say they will not do any planning, coordinating or supervising or training of student athletes, and will not run any summer camps or leagues this summer because teachers do not have a new contract with the district.

The letter, which is being sent by coaches this week, says the coaches will not volunteer their time this summer and will only begin activities on the start date outlined in their contracts. Teachers are working under the terms of their old contract until a new contract is approved.

An eleventh grader attended the school board meeting on Tuesday night and begged both sides to come to an agreement for the sake of students.

Following is the full text of the letter coaches are sending out this week:

Dear Parents and Athletes,

After more than a year of negotiations, PREA members remain without a contract. We, the coaches listed below, are dedicated to continuing with our current job actions until a fair, equitable agreement is reached with the Board of Education. To date the Board has  not offered such a contract, and, therefore, we must inform you that this summer we will  not be working hours for which we are not compensated. As PREA coaches we will not  volunteer our time to engage in any planning, coordinating, supervising, or other  involvement with summer camps, leagues, practices, scrimmages, conditioning, or weight training sessions until the start date of our contracts on or about August 10th.

In 2010, we the coaches, along with all PREA staff receiving stipends, voluntarily gave  up our negotiated pay increase at the request of the Board in order to help the district  through a tight fiscal year. This was done despite the fact, as you know, that we spend  hundreds of hours beyond the contractual bounds of a given competition season – all of  which is time for which we are not paid. And yet the Board of Education is now insisting  on zero increase in the stipends we receive – no increase for this year, and no increase for  the next four years! In light of significant drops in take-home pay over the past three  years and a sense of disrespect from the Board for the extra work that we do and the  sacrifices we have made, we will not continue to donate our time during the summer  months.

We all love what we do – especially the opportunity to work with our fine young people  in a fantastic school and in a community that has always supported excellence in our  schools. And we are proud of the fact that our programs have ranked at the very top of  scholastic sports in the state. But we are also facing a very difficult economic reality and  a frustrating work environment. Many of us are raising families of our own and must  deal with childcare costs in order to make ourselves available to work for no pay. Thus,  we are unified in our conviction that we will work to the specific contours of our  coaching contracts and no further until the Board recognizes our dedication and agrees to  treat us fairly.

If you feel as we do, that we deserve a fair increase in our stipends, and that the loss of  our usual summer programs – brought on by the Board of Education’s intransigence on  this issue – is a tremendous cost, please express your opinion to our superintendent and  members of the Board as soon as you can.

Thank you very much.


Scott Cameron
Dom Capuano
Chip Casto
Charlie Gallagher
Joe Gargione
Steve Hennessy
Christian Herzog
Sarah Hibbert
Rashone Johnson
Patty Manhart
Kristin Michaelson
Carly Misiewicz
Dave Roberts
Valerie Rodriguez
Carlos Salazar
Ben Samara
Heather Serverson
Sheryl Severance
Mark Shelley
Jim Smirk
Marissa Soprano
Peter Stanton
Wayne Sutcliffe
Dan Van Hise


  1. You know, if for no other reason, this process has been so valuable in educating people about exactly how much time and effort the teachers volunteer outside of what they’re paid for. Am I the only one who had no idea that all the summer stuff was unpaid?!

    1. @OffToSeeHim:disqus: It’s true that some of our coaches and other teachers work uncompensated hours. This is true of many of us in the U.S. That said, I think it’s not quite accurate to say that “all summer stuff was unpaid.” Each of the coaches who signed that letter earned a stipend for coaching. These stipends are what is know in the PREA contract as Extra Pay for Extra Service (EPES). The coaches who are PREA members listed above earned total EPES payments (coaching stipend[s] plus whatever extra compensated work they did last year) ranging from $183 to $29,901. I wrote “stipend(s)” since I know a few coach more than one sport. Twelve of the coaches who signed the letter earned more that $10,000 in EPES payments; four of those 12 earned more than $20,000 in EPES. Even with two stipends of $183 and $381, the average EPES payment for those who signed the letter was $11,874. Coaching requires a lot of hard work and passion; I’m not for a moment saying these men and women did not earn these EPES payments. I’m merely pointing out that while they may devote time for which they are not compensated over the summer, these PREA members are compensated by the taxpayers for their coaching.

        1. You’re welcome. For the benefit of those who might read this thread, the above information was provided by the district office as part of an Open Public Records Act request of the total compensation of all PREA members. These represent the most recently completed fiscal year: 2013-’14. Since members of PREA have been working under terms of an expired contract, many of those payments will be the same (or close to the same) when FY2014-’15 ends on June 30.

      1. I rechecked the numbers on the EPES compensation of the 24 coaches who signed the letter. The average EPES payment was $13,993, not $11,874 as I previously reported. I apologize for the error.

        1. I think it’s great that you have access to the facts and are willing to post them. Thank you very much, what you’ve posted in this and other threads has been very helpful to me.

      2. I’m not disagreeing with you, but what I read in the letter was that the contract states that the EPES payments are for services that begin on August 1st. So that means that hours worked by the coaches between the end of school and August 1st are uncompensated… doesn’t it? I can’t figure out a way to read that in which it would mean anything else. So I guess I don’t understand what you mean. They don’t appear to be saying that all of the coaching services they provide are uncompensated. They appear to be saying that the paid services start on August 1st, and that they’ll still be providing those services, but not the ones they’re not compensated for. Do you have a different interpretation? Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my original response.

        1. I think you’re correct. Sorry if I misunderstood. I have no problem with the coaches withholding services for which they are not compensated. It is their right.

          1. How can you be saying the teachers are denying students opportunities?!?!?! The AP prep, club advising, and other opportunities were only there in the first place because teachers VOLUNTEERED!!!! The teachers are also continuing to write student recommendations VOLUNTARILY. The administration and Board want to take credit for the diversity of opportunities the students have, but then don’t want to pay to make them available. The teachers are so demoralized by their treatment, they should never volunteer another minute of their time! So WHO is robbing students of opportunities?!?!? For which club, sport, test prep, or student opportunity have you volunteered your time? Do you have any idea how much test prep instructors are paid?!?!? Some teachers need the time they used to volunteer to take an extra job to make up for the take-home pay cuts they agreed to LAST contract!!!!!!!

            1. @Reality check: I’m a former Princeton BOE member: seven years on the board; three years as president; another two as vice president. Served on every board committee and on a half dozen or so joint committees with teachers and administrators. Led the board team that conducted a search for the current superintendent. Answered constituent calls for hours in the evening when I might have preferred to spend time with my family. I was fortunate to have the job flexibility to do all that while working a full time job. I volunteered thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of hours to the betterment of our district. I want to point out that as a board member, my volunteer time was not unusual. Some current members of the board put in many more hours. I was also a PTO member, PTO president, member of PTOC a PEF board member and a band parent. I realized not a dime from my efforts. Also, I’m married to a teacher who works in another district and am well aware of how committed good teachers can be; I see the extra hours she puts in, answering emails in the evening and fielding calls from parents, planning lessons, writing curriculum (for free). Yes, Princeton teachers freely gave of their time to contribute to a thriving school community. Then, they took that away for no apparent reason other than their union leadership did not like the state-imposed mandatory healthcare contributions paid by every other teacher and every other public worker in New Jersey. I must say I find your handle ironic. I use my initials. My name is Tim Quinn, in case you’re wondering. I’m a proud supporter of our great public school system and I’m concerned because the district is going to be facing hard choices very soon that could have even greater negative impacts on students. Our board is going to make some difficult and unpopular decisions. Negotiating a realistic, sustainable contract with teachers is part of this process.

    2. I’m reluctant to accept the contents of the letter without confirmation because the attempt to influence the parents of our student athletes to lobby for higher stipends is so blatant and distasteful. Perhaps someone who knows can tell us specifically what the current and proposed contracts provide concerning what the stipends cover. Instead of continuing to allow people to slant the reporting of this mess for their own purposes, may we please have the facts?

  2. Our children shouldn’t be used as pawns in the negotiations. These responsibilities should be paid, if they aren’t already, as part of the stipends. It’s wrong for any educator to take our their frustration on the kids.

    1. But, if they’re not paid as part of the stipends, the coaches should shut up and work for free, right? Here’s another idea, if the parents want all the summer services, they can pay for them out of pocket at whatever the going rate is at baseball/swimming/football/track camps. I bet it’s way higher than the stipends though.

  3. As a parent to 2 kids in the HS, I am extremely upset at the Board. This School puts no value on the positive impact of sports in rounding out a student’s learning environment. Princeton and Cranbury are two of the wealthiest towns in this State and to pennypinch on this area is ridiculous. As much as I pay in taxes if you told me that a few extra dollars were added, so what! These coaches work hard and put in many hours and I certainly do not believe they are compensated anywhere near the level of schools that place a far greater emphasis on sports. For the Board to offer NO increaser for the next five years is a disgrace. I know if my employer told me I am going to underpay you and not increase your pay for the next five years then I would be out of there. I am not advocating for some ridiculous annual increase like 10% per year, but a fair (to both sides) annual ongoing increase is certainly warranted. This Board needs to start doing it s job for the kids and stop holding to such an absolutely ridiculous position!

    1. What is your reasoning for believing that “the employer is underpaying”? The offer in the paper last week doesn’t support it.

      1. For the amount of hours that all of these coaches put in on the side if you figure it out it is such a low hourly rate it is ridiculous. I am all for coaches doing this for the love of it but to really believe they are being overcompensated for their time is ridiculous. But I guess that is always true as most people believe as long as it is someone else doing it. I find it hard to believe the Board is only offering a 0% increase over 5 years. That is not reasonable for any public or private sector job.

        1. I don’t recall hearing any details of the board’s offer regarding Extra Pay For Extra Service. Would you cite the source of this information? I do know that what is on the table is a three-year contract, not a five-year contract.

          1. So if you know the length of the contract offered, do you know what HAS been offered on the Extra Pay for Extra Service? Is it 0% for three years?

            1. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: To answer your question: I do not know. I can’t recall a member of the board negotiating team making a statement regarding EPES, other than pointing out that Princeton’s rates are the highest in Mercer County. I do know from public comments that it is a three year proposal because the union asked the board to negotiate the last two years in a way to lower the healthcare contribution teachers (and all other public employees) are required to make by law.

              1. The coaches in the letter are stating the 0%. I daresay that’s what PrincetonHSstudentparent refers to. Since the Board posted a comparison chart at its last meeting, one would think the EPES compensation would be known.

                1. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: I’m not sure what chart you’re referring to; I thought all the board said about PREA was that it had been offered a deal with a settlement similar to that given the other two unions. Your point is well taken, though. All info should be out in the open.

                  1. It’s on the district website under “Contract Update.” You can find a link to “Board presentation May 20.” They do a comparison between the PRESSA agreement and the offer to the PREA; no notes were given on EPES compensation. The differences in salary offers for the support staff and teachers is stark, however. (Administrators also got a higher contract in two of the three years, not to mention the bennie of selling back vacation time.)

                    Also, whoever put it together added together all compensation on the PREA offer but did not do the same on the PRESSA side. They should list all the facts, and if they went to the trouble for the mere offer, something not even resolved, why wouldn’t they do the same for the contract they actually settled?

                    1. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: Thanks for your research. I will have a look at the chart. It’s worth noting that members of PAA and the Central Office Staff (superintendent, assistant supers, business administrator, et cetera) do not receive any EPES payments. A quick search of the last PRESSA contract finds mentions of overtime, but no mention of EPES. I’m not sure PRESSA members qualify for EPES stipends; I simply don’t know if any of its members coaches a team. Obviously, they don’t participate in the extra professional activities for which teachers are compensated, such as curriculum writing. I agree with you: more information for taxpayers to consider is a good thing.

                    2. Well, I know we’ve hired non-teachers to be assistant coaches and trainers. Actually, the current boys ice hockey coach isn’t a teacher on staff either. There are probably others. I have no idea how stipends are determined in such cases or whether the PREA contract is the “going rate” for anyone who fills the position.

                      Either way, the fact that one need not be a teacher or affiliated with their union indicates that both PRESSA and Central Office Staff could take on EPES position if they wished. Apparently they’re just not signing on for that.

                    3. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: That could be the case. I don’t know if PRESSA members coach; just that there appears to be no provision of their contract that outlines possible compensation for coaching. I do know that PAA members and COS staff do not qualify for non-pensionable extra pay for activities. So if an administrator wanted to coach, he or she would not be compensated. I’m suspecting that if PRESSA members coached, they would be paid the same as non-PREA members who coach. Either way, like EPES, it would be non-pensionable compensation.

                    4. Thank you for answering my question on the PAA and COS staff. It would be interesting to see how non-PREA members are compensated, assuming that such would also hold true for PRESSA members who agreed to coach. (Maybe one more area of research for Ms. Knapp and her staff.)

                      I know this has not been your stance on the issue, but there are others writing here who perhaps should take note of your 4th sentence. For whatever we’d like to say about teachers’ refusal to work for free, administrators apparently feel the same.

                      I suppose one difference is that, should the contract be settled, (or I guess “when”), the teachers will go back to working for free. I doubt we’ll see central administrators on the football field doing the same, since they’ve yet to show such an inclination.

    2. Has anyone done a detailed side-by-side comparison between Princeton, West Windsor, the state average, etc.? How do Princeton salaries compare?

  4. I’m both a product of and a parent of child in PPS, and I support and value teachers, and coaches, and I am also very pro-union. However, I think there are some aspects of coaching staffing and compensation in the district that we might want to revisit. Apparently all coaching jobs are offered first and actually only to teacher’s union teachers. While there may be some advantages to this, there are some disadvantages & potential for negative impact on the quality of our kids participation in sports teams at the schools when teacher preference for coaching jobs is absolute. For example, a local sport enthusiast/former player with a particular interest/experience in the sport, or a recent college/masters grad with recent training & intent to enter PhysEd related career may be shut out of the coaching job because a current teacher with less experience with the sport and less coaching skill wants the job. This situation also means that we have no incentive “career path” for long time assistant or auxiliary coaches who apparently can be hired outside of teacher ranks but no matter how many years they put in with the team, they won’t get the head coaching spot. Additionally, when there are any issues of coaching quality or coaching approach, it is more intimidating and met with more institutional “inclubbyness” if/when parents or student athletes raise these issues to the overseeing superiors of the coaches. So while I generally support the “work to rule” concept in labor negotiations, and am fine with these coaches (and the teachers generally) not putting in unpaid time while negotiating, I would just note that the teacher-coaches taking this stand in some sense may have these coaching jobs in the first place as a benefit of being a teacher.

  5. I figured out how much one of the football coaches (not necessarily a PHS coach) made with off-season and summer training, and it fell between 25 and fifty cents an hour. If any parent is willing to do that to save their $179/average house taxes, by all means STEP UP!!! If any parent wants to invite 25 of their child’s 9 year old friends over every day – keep them engaged & safe for 6+ hours, evaluate each one’s learning style, teach each one valuable information, write up a SGO on each, and then go home to grade, plan, and write up the lessons for the next day so you can do it all over again -please STEP UP!!!! Oh – and do all this while making less money every year, being treated rudely by the administration and Board, and volunteering for club mentoring, extra study sessions, field trips often over weekends, and writing student recommendations. All you Princeton residents who are willing to step up for this job – please pay for the professional training and yearly professional development classes, and then form a line at Valley Road. Then we can discuss teachers’ salaries……..

    1. @Not a teacher, but pissed off: There’s much here worth replying to, but as someone who sat in silence listening to 90 percent of the open public comment periods during this yearlong dispute (as a board member and later as a citizen stakeholder), I take exception with your comment that teachers are “treated rudely by the administration and the board.” Go back and watch the recordings of the public portion of the meetings on the district website. You might get a different perspective on who is treating whom rudely. I’m a former Teamster (college job) who is the son of a Teamster, yet I was tarred as a “union buster.” I’m the husband of a teacher (a member of an NJEA local, as a matter of fact) and I sat at the board table next to the sister of a teacher and with others who were themselves teachers or the spouses of teachers, yet we were called “anti-teacher.” I must say that as a union member from a union family, the behavior of the teachers union and its open disparaging of other locals representing PPS employees is without precedence in my experience. When I took part in a Teamster strike, no one said, “You’re disrespecting us because steelworkers and autoworkers are getting more.” The lack of collegiality shown to other district employees and the lack of decorum show by some members who addressed the board was shocking. Again, these negotiations are not so much about what teachers are earning now, it’s about how much of a raise the district can afford to give teachers — and whether they can/should offset their healthcare contributions — without cutting back on programs and raising class sizes.

      Finally, I think we’ve seen that in the absence of teacher volunteer hours, parents have stepped in to fill the void on some activities. I was please to hear reports of fifth grade trips to Gettysburg continuing with parent supervision. And I’m assuming the APs were administered without the benefit of the volunteer review sessions. All of those hours teachers donated were greatly appreciated by the community, but I think some question why they had to be taken away.

  6. Just pay the increased taxes and give the teachers and coaches whatever they want and deserve. If we have to pay extra for the sports programs, so be it. If you’re a Princeton homeowner, you get it back in multiples when it comes to the increases in your home value. The demand for housing here is directly proportional to the quality of the school district.

    The amount of time that the football and wrestling coaches put into the offseason is enormous. The kids get as much character building out of these offseason experiences as they do in season. Win or lose, they learn that hard work pays off.

    Unfortunately, in this case it seems like the teachers do not benefit from their own hard work. I’d be happy to take my own garbage to the dump for the next 20 years, or paying more for parking in town if it means winning a football playoff game or sending a kid to Atlantic City for the wrestling state championship.

    1. Hi Ernie Barsamian: Thanks for all the time you’ve volunteered over the years to PHS athletics and it’s good to see someone here using their real-world name. (I use my Twitter handle.) Even were it fair to “just pay the increased taxes and give the teachers and coaches what they deserve” — we could have a separate and lengthy discussion on that — the reality is the district simply cannot afford to do so without cutting programs. Enrollment is up. The property tax levy is capped at 2 percent. Healthcare costs are rising. Expensive mandates like PARCC come down from the state without any additional state aid. Something has to give or the very programs you cite here, the ones you’ve volunteered many hours to support, will be endangered. This isn’t about the relative merits of any program — choir, band, debate, Model UN, Odyssey of the Mind all build character and teach kids teamwork in the same way sports do, and some require an year-round commitment with out-of-pocket expenses from parents.

      This all started because coaches who donated their time in the offseason to help kids in the past decided they weren’t going to do it this year because their union’s leadership thinks a state-mandated law on healthcare contributions is unfair and wants taxpayers to make up the difference. These took a principled stand and had the courage to sign their names to a public letter; no one can argue that it’s their right to decline to do what they’ve done in the past for free. These actions do raise questions about the total compensation of district employees and the information being released will help individuals make up their own minds as to whether the union’s arguments, which we’ve heard for a year now, are valid.

      As much as the PREA would want us to believe this is about “respect,” really it comes down to opportunities for kids — those supported by the taxpayers and those made possible through volunteer hours of staff and parents — and which of these opportunities will be able to continue in a tight financial time.

      Say hi to Jeanine for me. I remember with fondness our work on the Riverside PTO those many years ago. I trust your boys are well.

      — Tim Quinn

      1. Is it possible that the COACHES think “a state-mandated law on healthcare contributions is unfair”? Why attribute that to the union’s leadership? The coaches, after all, are the ones paying those contributions. It seems perfectly reasonable to believe that they are the ones who are unhappy with it. It may be that they even think state mandates are bad because they interfere with bargaining. Let’s face it, Trenton simply said “This is how it’s going to be” regarding an issue that was once negotiated between both parties, and with that, the administration got a HUGE bennie that couldn’t even be called a “concession” since it was simply handed to them by fiat. They gave up nothing at all and got a gigantic gift in return, one that came directly from the pockets of teachers. That’s not bargaining so why wouldn’t the coaches – or ANY union member – fight it? And why would anyone suggest that this is an attitude that comes from “union leadership”?

        Frankly, I can understand why public workers would be happy, and well within their rights, to want it removed. It seems to me that anyone who supports collective bargaining would have an issue with it because it reeks of Scott Walker and Wisconsin.

        In any case, as I understand it, the law is no longer a “mandate.” It sunsets or did already sunset. It seems to me the problem here is that the administration made no provision for its ending. They got a gift and assumed it would last forever, even though the gift was time-stamped.

        1. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: I’m certainly not arguing for Chapter 78. I’m a public employee who is married to someone who teaches in a public school district in another New Jersey community. I’m well aware of the impact it’s had on my family and on the families of my colleagues. None of us is happy about it; the contributions are among the highest of their kind in the nation and you’re correct in drawing the line straight to ALEC and the Scott Walkers of the world.

          That said, it is the law until June 30 and no legislation to either extend or modify its provisions has made it out of committee in the state legislature. Absent any guidance from the people who imposed the law and with the rise in healthcare costs not being predictable, I honestly don’t see how the board could make a provision for its ending. (Some find it relevant that PREA members pay no deductibles whatsoever, but that is tangential to this discussion.) In any case, 107 NJEA locals, including those in at least one neighboring high-performing district, have approved new three-year contracts with Tier 4 premium contributions in place for Years 2 and 3. The other two Princeton bargaining units ratified contracts with Tier 4 in place, but with cost-saving modifications to plans, with savings shared with the unions.

          What PREA is saying is that they should be treated differently than every other teacher in every other district in New Jersey, differently than every school support staff member and school administrator in Princeton and in every other district in New Jersey, and differently than every municipal worker in Princeton and every municipal and state worker in New Jersey. Putting aside whether that is fair, the bigger question is this: Is it sustainable without cutting programs for kids? That is the essential question.

          As for my reference to “union leadership,” it seems that recently the public only hears from the union leadership and from the same union members who have gone to microphone throughout the year. So I do wonder how the rank and file feels about the way this whole prolonged and ugly process has played out. Admittedly, this is pure conjecture on my part. But as a former union member (Teamsters Local 177), I know that sometimes there is tension between the leadership and the rank and file. I suspect that if I were a teacher and I was asked to do something out of character, such as withhold voluntary services I once provided, I might have questions about the tactics employed on my behalf.

          — Tim Quinn

          1. I don’t see where the administration would need to “make a provision for its ending.” It was made law with a sunset clause, and that appears to be upon us. It seems to me an administration that was prudent would have assumed the stance, “We know these contributions are not mandated permanently, so we had better prepare ourselves for what’s coming, when we’ll have to return to negotiating in the ways we’ve always had to.” That does not appear to be the case here, and we might see that failure of thinking as more egregious if what you say about extensions is true. If no legislation to extend it can even make it out of committee, it seems absurd to me that the administration believes (or acts as if it believes) it will go on forever. It seems clear the legislature that passed the law that ended bargaining on the issue wants bargaining to return. (And that, in my opinion, is a good thing. Given what you write about your own affiliation, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be advocating a return to collective bargaining on issues that were always bargained until our state government decided to take a page from ALEC.)

            If I recall correctly, the teachers said very early in the process that a number of districts HAD negotiated the benefits with their teachers. Is that not the case? Because clearly if it is, then they are not asking to be “treated differently than every other teacher in every other district in New Jersey.” They are asking to be treated as some other administrations have treated some other teachers.

            Your opening statement would seem to be the argument for why these coaches themselves would be feeling the way they do without any prodding from leadership. You say you feel the same way, and I think we can probably agree you do not feel that way because a union leader directed your thinking in that direction. So given your own feelings on the matter, I don’t understand why you’d attribute the feelings of these coaches to “union leadership’s” views on the benefits law.

            Finally, I agree with your observation about who is doing the speaking. Of course I hope you’ll agree that the same is true of the administration’s side, where we hear the same voices speaking on negotiations. But I think we’d be in dangerous territory if we suggested that the thinking of the board’s membership is being shaped by two or three voices. Or maybe it is? Perhaps the rest of administration has questions about the tactics employed on its behalf?

            1. Joseph Addison: Just to clarify: I am an unaffiliated public worker. I do not enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining, as do members of PREA. The municipality I’m employed by has not made a statement about the sunset clause of Chapter 78 and I assume the Tier 4 contributions will remain in effect going forward, at least until someone in the legislature who isn’t seeking a higher office allows some kind of legislation to come to the floor for a vote. Personally, I think it’s not realistic to expect legislation that will reduce contribution rates, given the current political climate and the fact that the same people @Martha Friend refers to as “teacher bashers” view all public employees as “the new welfare queens” (to borrow a phrase from Paul Krugman).

              You’re correct that early on, we did hear public comments from members of PREA mentioning six (maybe it was seven) districts who were negotiating outside of Chapter 78. When I left the Princeton BOE, I inquired about these districts with the New Jersey School Boards Association and no one there had heard of them. Now, it could be that NJSBA only gets details of settlements and not of actual negotiations, but I find the lack of specific information about these districts very interesting. This is pure speculation on my part, but if such districts do exist, I suspect they are small districts with declining enrollments, not districts with robust programs of study, rising enrollments and relatively well-compensated staff. It’s also interesting that around November 2014, we stopped hearing about these six (or seven) districts; this talking point seemed to have been dropped from the discourse. (Granted, I could be misremembering this.) Were I a member of PREA, I would be tempted to get up and say “the board of education of Anytown, Thistown and Thattown have all settled on contracts outside Chapter 78.” I can’t recall hearing any such statement. Again, do these towns really exist?

              To me, of greater relevance are the 107 districts who enjoy labor peace today because their unions accepted the fact that healthcare contributions are unlikely to change and apparently have become critical to the maintenance of the education program. Again, whether Chapter 78 is negotiable is kind of moot point when the board says that lower contributions would result in cuts to programs and job losses. So again, the essential question is this: Can the taxpayers offer relief on employee healthcare costs to PREA without reducing opportunities for kids? Clearly, the board has answered this question, “No.”

              As to who on the board is doing the talking, it’s worth noting that the board has three new members this year. During my first year on the board, I mostly listened and learned. I don’t expect them to have as firm a grasp on the issues as a negotiating team of veteran board members. I think the reason you don’t hear from many board members is explained in the preamble to the open public sessions: they are prohibited by federal legislation from making comments about negotiations.

              1. I can see how your affiliation would shape your worldview. If you do not receive the benefits of collective bargaining, it’s clear that you might not support them. It’s certainly helpful to know this fact, as you have made your own union membership a point in the discussion. I would not care to put words in your mouth, as is done by some here, so I will simply ask. As a union member, do you believe in collective bargaining? If you do not wish to answer that question, I understand completely. I only ask because, for me, the larger concern here isn’t a single contract in a single town, but the larger question of labor and its rights. We seem to agree that Walker’s maneuvering in Wisconsin and its roots in ALEC’s agenda are harmful, but we seem to disagree about how that applies in the case of a contract here.

                I have not seen towns listed regarding the chapter 78, but I’ll keep looking for good Google search terms. I did find an Oct. 2 article in the TT (when impasse was declared) in which John Baxter is quoted “12 other school districts in New Jersey, in the same position as
                Princeton, have already negotiated contracts that include various
                different formulas for contributions for years 2 and 3.” The board did not contradict the claim then, nor, to my knowledge has it ever. To paraphrase you on the matter: “Were I a member of the Board, I would be tempted to get up and say ‘No settlement in the state has changed provisions of Chapter 78.’ I can’t recall hearing any such

                Even as recently as their May 20 meeting and chart, the Board is citing districts that have maintained Ch. 78 when the easier and FAR more effective statement would be “no settlements have ever provided what the PREA is asking for.” And it may be coincidence, but since around the same November you cite, the Board has stopped saying that negotiating Ch. 78 violates the law. This talking point, too, seems to have been dropped from the discourse, even though it seems central to the idea of a “mandate.”

                Whether or not lower contributions would result in cuts to programs and job losses is central to the issue, for sure. However, the Board’s statements and the teachers’ disagree on this as an inevitable outcome of some changes in contributions. That’s why this isn’t a moot point. The Board can say many things for public consumption in the course of these negotiations, as can the teachers’ union. I would suspect that the truth rests somewhere between their mutual claims.

                Finally, I think you’re missing my point on the last paragraph. You seemed to be suggesting that, by virtue of the fact that the “same voices” were speaking for the union, that those voices were also shaping the decision of these coaches. Obviously correlation does not equal causation, which is something you’re saying yourself here. The silence of most of the Board should not be attributed to the direction of Board leadership merely because the Board leadership consistently speaks most on the issue. Just as other Board members have other reasons for their actions (like federal laws), it’s quite safe to assume these coaches have their own reasons for their choices. As I wrote previously, it seems to me you lay out those reasons very well when you discuss the impacts of the benefits law on you and your family.

                1. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: Yes, as a former member of a union, I do support collective bargaining. It was only because my father got a union job that our family was able to get close to what at the time was considered a lower-middle-class lifestyle in the ’60s. I could not have paid for college had I not spent six years working in a union warehouse in the late ’70s. I recognize that it was only due to the sacrifices of the labor movement that we have many things we take for granted in the workplace, such as a five-day workweek, paid vacation and sick leave. Too, I know that this country’s greatest time of widespread prosperity in the post World War II era coincided with peak union membership and that the near total dismantling of what used to be called the middle class has followed the timeline of diminishing union membership. So I would consider myself pro-union, but not represented. Certainly, PREA members enjoy job protections and benefits that I do not as an at-will municipal employee, but I’m fine with that because I love my job.

                  All that said, I do have personal reservations about the job actions this single union made in these negotiations because of the affect they had on kids. So while, as a supporter of unions, I respect the right of the coaches to make their principled stand, that respect is tempered with disappointment because of the kids. You didn’t ask, but I also personally disagree with the union’s tactics regarding other bargaining units. Making PAA’s compensation, and their now-expiring one-year deal, the centerpiece of so many vitriolic public comments seemed not very collegial from a school perspective and also counterproductive from a union perspective. When I took part in a strike against my employer as a Teamster, I don’t recall us talking about settlements received by autoworkers and steelworkers. I could be misremembering; I mostly remember walking a picket line and attend a meeting in smoke-filled hall in Irvington for the ratification vote. I was very young when I was a represented worker.

                  I do hope my timeline was correct about the end of the mentions of the six, seven or 12 districts that have negotiated terms outside Chapter 78. Honestly, I can’t remember when the gag order was put in place. November was just a guess. For me, the operative word here is “negotiated.” No one on either side has said they know of a settlement outside of Chapter 78. I suspect that if PREA knew of any such districts, they would make that the centerpiece of their public comments, now that the gag order has been lifted, but public comment at the last meeting seemed to center on accusations of “ambush” from the special meeting and a review of previously stated grievances. I guess it would be in board’s best interest to make such a statement, but again, how would they be able to find out if, as recently as January, their association claimed to know of no such settlement? As for why talk of the legality of negotiating outside Chapter 78 disappeared from the board’s discussions at roughly the same time, it could be that it was considered a moot point because of the advice of their counsel and the absence of any evidence backing the union’s claim. It could be that the gag order came in at the same time.

                  Finally, your last point is well taken and I must admit that there was no evidence to back my conjecture that the coaches were operating on orders of the union leadership. Similarly, I don’t know the board’s strategy regarding public statements since, when I was on the board, I was prohibited by law from any involvement in PREA negotiations because my wife is a member of an NJEA local. So, as they say, my bad.

                2. @disqus_Xhaac6BNen:disqus: Couldn’t find my old union card, but here is my dad’s. I joined Teamsters Local 177 about 20 years later. I hope you are enjoying summer.

              1. @guest2: See my reply below. These districts have never been identified by PREA. The New Jersey School Boards Association had no information about them. It is worth noting that NJSBA tracks settlements, not talks.

Comments are closed.