If school board members have any doubts about the importance of the board’s negotiations with its employee associations, they need only glance at the district budget. “For the typical board of education, wages and benefits make up 70-80 percent of the operating budget,” notes Patrick Duncan, NJSBA manager of labor relations. “This is a big piece of the financial picture.”

But the contracts, especially the teachers’ union contract, also influence students’ educational experiences. “The contract has an impact on how teachers interact with students, dealing with things like how long is the school day, or how many classes are teachers going to teach. It has an impact on the quality of services that the kids in the district are getting,” says Duncan.

Each year, about one third of the union contracts expire. It is important that members of board negotiations committees, many of whom may have little or no experience with collective negotiations are properly prepared for the next step. Since contracts typically expire June 30, districts usually prepare for negotiations in the preceding fall and in-person sessions begin in the winter.

NJSBA’s labor relations team will be conducting a three-course series of training programs to teach board members the particulars of bargaining. The following trainings are scheduled:

Preparing for Bargaining, Friday, Nov. 17 or Saturday Dec 2, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. This program will guide members through the preparation activities and legal framework that are essential to effective bargaining. Topics covered will include: the employer’s obligations and rights; the roles of the bargaining team; costing out the current agreement, including salary guides and benefits; and developing employer proposals.

Bargaining at the Table, Friday, Dec. 8 or Saturday Jan. 20, 2018, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. This program covers the mechanics of bargaining; how to analyze union demands; ways to use comparative data; impasse procedures; and at-the-table techniques. Participants will take part in mock negotiations.

Analyzing and Constructing Salary Guides, Friday, March 23 or Saturday, March 24, 2018, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Participants in this program will learn how to analyze and develop salary guides that meet a district’s staffing and compensation goals.

NJSBA’s Labor Relations Resources The NJSBA labor relations team is a valuable resource for board members, superintendents, administrators and attorneys. The labor relations team maintains a comprehensive database of contract bargaining data, including settlement rates, salary guides, insurance, leaves of absence, and selected contract terms, as well as a compilation of teachers’ collective negotiation agreements.

NJSBA professionals can also review your district’s salary guide to identify potential problems and provide strategies and advice for dealing with the problems.  Labor relations staffers will also analyze a district’s collective bargaining agreement to identify provisions that are illegal or ill-advised, and provisions that are advantageous to the board. And the NJSBA labor relations team is always available to provide advice and assistance on a variety of questions that a board may have.

All of the training sessions are open to board members, attorneys, superintendents and business administrators. Attorneys will receive continuing education credit for attending the program.  For more information and to register for the bargaining series visit the Labor Relations webpage at www.njsba.org/services/labor-relations/labor-relations-training/

Gennie Vital, a senior public relations major at Rowan University, served as an NJSBA summer intern. She can be reached at vitalg9@students.rowan.edu.