An Open Letter to the Robbinsville Community,
As you may have heard, the Robbinsville Board of Education is claiming that Robbinsville Education Association (REA) members who serve as high school club advisors have abdicated their duties. The Board is falsely asserting that club advisor positions are voluntary and thus, not entitled to a stipend. We are disappointed to see the Board and District administration choosing to forget the facts and circulate misleading misinformation instead. However, given the superintendent’s penchant for denying any missteps made on his watch, we don’t find it surprising. We feel we must break our silence on this issue; the Robbinsville families and students deserve the truth.
In October 2018, a sidebar agreement between the REA and Board of Education on the payment of club advisors was reached. This sidebar states, “New clubs can be added and will be paid a stipend at an amount agreed upon by The Robbinsville Board of Education and the Robbinsville Education Association.” This language, by law, supersedes any previous language on this matter.
In October 2021, we learned that new clubs were created and approved by the Board. At that time, we reached out to the superintendent to ensure the negotiated sidebar agreement would be followed. What occurred next could only be described as a three-ring circus, with a variety of creative assertions being used to justify avoiding the rightful payment of club advisors. Let us set the record straight:
- It is the District administration’s responsibility to inform building administrators of agreements between the BoE and REA.
- It is disingenuous for any Board member to claim they didn’t know about the sidebar since it has been in the Board and administration’s possession since its approval in 2018. It even includes the signatures of two current Board members. Moreover, additional copies have been subsequently provided to the current Board, superintendent, and business administrator.
- It is the Board’s responsibility to budget for these clubs. The cost of paying for these clubs equals approximately 0.1 percent of the budget. Any district with a $2.6 million surplus shouldn’t struggle to cover these costs.
- The Board’s recent email states that they are performing their due diligence to allocate district funds for these positions. What the email does not state is that they offered advisors 1/3 of the rightful stipend—1/3 of the stipend for 100% of the club advisory work.
- The sidebar does NOT have a sunset date; the sidebar DOES still apply.
- Sidebars do not appear in a current negotiated agreement. That is why they are sidebars, as they occur outside of a settled and in-force contract. However, sidebars are every bit as applicable and enforceable as the contract itself once approved by both parties, as this one has been.
The bottom line is that, despite this circus, REA members continued to work for months without compensation while the REA attempted to resolve this matter. Because the Board chose to play games rather than honor our agreement, our members were left with no choice but to resign from these positions. REA members are dedicated to the work they do, but they are equally as dedicated to providing for their families. In fact, two-thirds of them hold second jobs to make ends meet, and they are simply asking to be compensated for the work they do.
For these reasons, the REA hopes you will join us in urging Superintendent Betze and the Robbinsville Board of Education to honor the negotiated sidebar agreement and pay these club stipends. Robbinsville’s staff and students deserve nothing less.
The Executive Committee
Robbinsville Education Association