Herricks negotiations enter ‘fact-finding’ process

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The Herricks Teachers' Association sea of blue shirts has become a regular occurrence at board of education meetings amid contract negotiations. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

Despite months of negotiations, the Herricks board of education and Herricks Teachers’ Association have been unable to come to an agreement over a new teachers contract.

The negotiations have now entered into a “fact-finding” process in order to continue efforts to settle, board President Juleigh Chin said at the board’s Thursday meeting.

The meeting, like several others in past months, was a room packed full of Herricks teachers wearing blue, some passing around pieces of gum and even grading students’ assignments.

“The board is confident that given the opportunity to present the facts underlying the position it has taken in the negotiations, a neutral third party will agree that the district’s positions are fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” Chin said. 

The process will involve the appointment of a fact-finder mediator by the state’s Public Employment Relations Board.

Both parties will voice their sides of the negotiations and present information in support of their positions, and the mediator will attempt to bridge the division before recommending a solution.

The negotiations have gone on for nearly a year, Chin said, and it became apparent after eight negotiation sessions this past fall that no progress was being made.

Following an additional five sessions with a neutral mediator and various proposals from the district including wage increases, the teachers’ association declared at the most recent negotiations that continued mediation would be fruitless, according to Chin.

“While several other issues appear to be susceptible to resolution, the central issue separating the parties is compensation,” Chin said. 

“Now that negotiations have broken down and we have entered fact-finding, I stand here once again extremely disheartened and dismayed among our nationally acclaimed sea of blue professionals,” HTA President Nidya Degliomini said. “Contrary to statements made previously, we believe that we do have the best interests of our students in mind even when negotiating a new contract.”

The fact-finding process is non-binding, Chin said, and if efforts fail to achieve a settlement, a super conciliator will then be appointed, also by PERB, to reach a settlement. There are no further steps in state law for collective bargaining of public schools after the appointment of the super conciliator, according to Chin.

Chin said that the board is committed to and hopeful the fact-finding process will offer a fair and equitable contract resolution and reiterated that the board “respects and values all teachers in the district.”

“Throughout these impasse procedures, the Board of Education has and will continue to be mindful that our teachers are paid nearly at the top of the 56 school districts in Nassau County, placing a significant burden on our residents,” Chin said. 

Following the contract negotiation updates, teachers Julie Denes and Kelly Jingeleski presented the board with updates to the districts’ Vocation Independence Program.

VIP is designed to initiate the transition from school-based instruction to community, professional and real-life instruction. The program is designed to support students as they transition into adulthood and become members of bigger communities.

By combining knowledge gained through direct instruction and “real life” experiences like job site training, students can learn to increase independence and self-determination, according to Denes and Jingeleski.

The program itself is an integration of contemporary special education strategies, speech-language development techniques and applied behavioral analysis, or ABA.

Often the daily activities of students in VIP will include community trips to local businesses and job site visits. Students, past and present, have worked at local companies like The Home Depot, Northwell Health and Hofstra University, all of which have partnered with Herricks for the program.

The board’s next meeting will take place Feb. 7 at the district high school rather than the community center, starting with a fireside chat meeting with student representatives at 6:45 p.m. The district’s first budget meeting for the 2019-2020 school year is scheduled for Feb. 28 back at the community center.

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