Sandra Karriem, chairperson of the South Orange - Maplewood Board of Education's negotiating task force, said at Monday's board meeting that the South Orange Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) teachers' union had not yet responded to the board's overtures to begin negotiations on the current teachers' contract, which will expire on June 30.
Since September, Superintendent Brian Osborne has issued monthly reminders at board meetings that the current contract will expire in June of this year. Monday night, Karriem said she thought the public deserved to know where the negotiations stand.
The board is "deeply committed" to reaching a mutually satiscfactory contract and the task force has been meeting regularly with a consultant since September to discuss the process and formulate a proposal, said Karriem.
The current contract required the board and SOMEA to begin negotiations by Feb. 1, 2013, a deadline that has passed.
Karriem said the district's consultant had reached out to SOMEA's NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) representative in December to set up a meeting, but the rep said the union would not be ready to begin negotiations until mid-March.
"To sum up, the board has been ready to engage with the union since January of this year and we will continue to reach out to SOMEA... to get the ball rolling. We are disappointed that we were not able to meet by the Feb. 1 deadline."
Karriem said students and staff deserve to have a contract in place before the current one expires.
The current contract was approved in May of 2011, after two and a half years of negotiations -- and two years of teachers going without a contract.
"We will anxiously await an overture from SOMEA with a first meeting date," Karriem said.