PLAISTOW — The room was quiet as Timberlane Regional School Board's Vice Chair Jennifer Silva read a Sept. 4 letter from the Teamster's Local 633 at Thursday night's board meeting.
"We get a very detailed letter that was not so nice, in my opinion," said board Chair Shawn O'Neil.
In July, Timberlane administrators told the school board they planned to unionize. The proposed unit would consist of seven principals, one associate principal, five assistant principals, three academic deans, nine directors, five assistant principal/curriculum coordinators, three coordinators, and one executive director.
The letter, written by Teamster's Local 633 Secretary and Treasurer Jeffrey Padellaro, accused the board of being the reason why the Timberlane administrators want to form a union and ordered them to strike the Timberlane Administrators' Benefits informational agenda item from discussion.
Those benefits include life, dental, and medical insurance, vacation, sabbatical and sick leave, course reimbursement, and retirement incentive among other things.
The letter addressed to Superintendent Earl Metzler, said the union is the sole bargainer for the Timberlane administrators and the school board is prohibited from making changes to the terms of employment until there is a collective bargaining agreement between all parties.
"As such, I am placing the board on notice of this local union's intent to hold the employer accountable for the maintenance of status quo," Padellaro said in the letter.
"Any deviation from status quo, without negotiation with this local union will be aggressively pursued as an unfair labor charge," the letter continues. "It is because of the school board's manner of doing business without considering their employees, that has caused them (Timberlane administrators) to form their own union with Teamster's Local 633."
Padellaro further states that a union representative would be at the meeting to discuss the issue or, the board could remove the item entirely from the agenda. According to Padellaro, the union is willing and ready to deal with the board's action if it is cooperation or confrontation.
It is unknown if a Teamster's Local 633 representative was at the meeting.
Although the board did discuss the agenda item, it was not disputed by any union member — no one approached or interrupted the conversation.
In response to the union's letter, O'Neil read a response from Timberlane's attorney James O'Shaughnessy, stating the board is well aware that they are prohibited from making changes to working conditions and benefits.
He further explains that the item on the agenda is "informational" and that administrator benefits are a part of a conversation that has been going on at the board level for over a year.
"While the school board is prohibited from making unilateral changes to bargaining unit member benefits, it is not prohibited from discussing the status and cost of those benefits in the context of planning and developing its budget," O'Shaughnessy wrote. "My client understands and respects your efforts to protect your members and is hopeful that the high level of cooperation and professionalism will continue during negotiations and beyond without the need for further threats."
Compensatory time was discussed by the board, as were liabilities, school vacation differences between contracts, and treating the administrators fairly and with respect as the process continues.
"We will continue to drive achievement through rigor, accountability, evaluation and support as we navigate negotiations," Metzler wrote in a statement, mentioning he is honored to lead 'a great district with the best students and staff any superintendent could ask for.' "Everybody at the table wants what is best for all of the stakeholders. I am confident that at the end of the day we will deliver the most good for the most amount of people."
A request for comment from Padellaro was not returned by press time.