CREST HAVEN - At a special meeting June 4, the Cape May County Technical School District Board of Education reached a last-minute, negotiated agreement that averted the potential loss of 15 custodial, maintenance and grounds-keeping jobs at the school.
For weeks, the district had been moving towards privatization of those jobs, a move, the board said in a press release after the meeting, which would have saved the district $650,000 over the life of a two-year initial agreement.
The Cape May County Technical Education Association, the union representing the workers, launched a protest against the move, which included asking the freeholders to intervene May 28.
The district reviewed bids from private firms and the special meeting was initially seen as the one at which the board would make an award.
The meeting drew over 75 employees and members of the public to the board conference room. They stood along the walls three deep, and filled floor space in front of the board meeting table.
The meeting was moved to space more suitable to the crowd and a changed agenda made clear that the privatization move was dead. That agenda called for the board to reject the privatization bids and approve a settlement with the union.
A meeting that drew a crowd expecting a confrontation with the board morphed into one where members of the public and employees used public comment to thank the board for its action.
The custodial and maintenance workers are part of the larger contract the district has with its employees, including the school’s teachers. That larger contract expires at the end of June. The language of the settlement will be incorporated as a sidebar into the existing contract until the new overall contract is approved.
Dr. Nancy Hudanich, district superintendent, said that the custodial and maintenance workers need to be rehired since they received notices that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of June. She said that would happen at the last board meeting in June.
The custodial and maintenance workers are non-tenured employees at the district, so they must be renewed on an annual basis. Some expressed concern that this could “all happen again next year.”
Board Chairman Alan Gould said this was evidence of what can happen “when reasonable people sit down and talk.” The board release spoke of a “mutual, beneficial resolution focusing on the facilities and fiscal accountability of the board.”
The parent union, the New Jersey Education Association, issued a statement: “Our agreement will benefit both the students and the community in the long run.” They added: “Our members provide an irreplaceable service – one that cannot be purchased for lesser costs.”
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