After nearly two years in contract negotiations, the Hopewell Valley Board of Education and Hopewell Valley Education Support Professionals Association (HVESPA) believe they are close to settlement, but union members, and their supporters, came to Monday’s board meeting en masse to voice how critical HVESPA personnel are to the district. HVESPA is comprised of office staff, paraprofessionals, custodians, and maintenance personnel.
Letters of support, written by Hopewell Valley Education Association (HVEA) union members (i.e. teachers, librarians, specialists), were presented to the board by HVESPA President, Patty Armstrong.
“It is our hope that you will take time to read them and from what you learn, perhaps you will reconsider your position at the bargaining table so that we can reach a resolution at our next negotiating session,” said Armstrong.
David Friedrich, Hopewell Valley Administrators and Supervisors Association (HVASA) President, Paul Tkacs, Hopewell Valley Education Association (HVEA) President, district teachers, and a parent stepped forward stating that the staff are “the heart and soul of the district who fail to get the recognition and credit they deserve and have earned,” “a vital part of the team but aren’t being treated that way,” and “are the individuals who are paid the least out of the five bargaining units in the district. It’s time they are given the recognition and appreciation they deserve.”
In response to the outpouring, Board of Education President, Lisa Wolff, made it clear that the board was “truly appreciative of everyone here.”
Negotiations Committee Member, Michael Markulec, stated that while this contract has been more difficult to close, there are just a few remaining issues that are being worked on. Markulec also expressed that he personally values these services. “You’re valued not just by the board, but by the parents in the district. We have aging schools, but they are in excellent condition (due to maintenance), we have great academics and that starts in the classroom with our paraprofessionals, and the secretaries are the face of the school. You are the backbone of the community,” he said.
Ms Wolff stated that the board “shares the frustration” and wants to “make sure we get a fair and equitable resolution.” A mediator has been hired to continue negotiations between HVESPA and the board.