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Drew, Board of Ed Reach Agreement on Labor Dispute

The mayor said he would seek FEMA reimbursement for wages incurred by school cafeteria employees working at the Middletown High School shelter during October's record snowstorm.

Mayor Daniel Drew today announced he had successfully negotiated a solution to the labor dispute which arose from Board of Education staff working at the Middletown High School shelter during October's snowstorm.

That storm knocked out power to the majority of the city.

"What was important was that we sat down and worked through the issues and negotiated what worked for both parties," Drew explained, "and we did that and now we’ve gotten a resolution that works for the city and works for the taxpayer, that works for employees, works for the Board."

Drew said over the course of a day or so, between phone calls and in-person meetings, he, the newly named chairman of the Board of Ed Gene Nocera and Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette had agreed on where the pay for the school cafeteria employees who worked in the emergency shelter would come from.

The city and Board of Ed had initially disagreed upon the source of payment.

An agreement was reached that the BOE would pay for the employees’ time and the city will work to acquire Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to reimburse storm-related costs for itself and the BOE.

“I appreciate the cooperation of Dr. Frechette and Dr. Nocera in bringing what could have been another big dispute to a conclusion that satisfied everyone involved,” Drew said.

"I definitely support the actions of the mayor and the cooperation between the city and Board of Education to resolve the matter without obstacles,” Nocera said. “In the end it was solved quickly and efficiently, saving the City money."

“BOE employees who worked at the Middletown High School Emergency Shelter during the recent storm were compensated by the BOE this week,” Frechette said. “The open communication with Mayor Drew is refreshing and encouraging.”

“As the union president, I would like to thank the mayor for helping to resolve the issue so it didn't escalate into a problem,” said Jeff Daniels, president of Local 466. The recent election of five new members of the Board of Education, Daniels said, was a good sign of progress.

“I am also impressed with the new Board of Education and believe they will be a great asset to the school system and city,” Daniels said.

Settling this disagreement, Drew said, was a priority since he took office Nov. 15, but it's only the first step. "I never had any illusions that disagreements would exist," he explained, "but what’s important to me is that we can work through those disagreements."

Middletown Patch found Drew at the Russell Library Monday morning, meeting with director Arthur Meyers alongside newly named chief of staff Joseph Samolis, en route to a radio show at Middlesex Community College.

Drew was a popular figure inside the library and out, where he waved to and shook hands with constituents. One older man exiting his car in front of the library complemented Drew's purple tie, "a color new to me," Drew acknowledged, then said Drew had a lovely wife.

The first day he took office, Drew removed the 42-inch television from former Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano's office. Giuliano had been criticized for buying an expensive LCD TV.

"It was important to me," Drew said, to remove the television immediately. "I didn’t think the television was something I wanted or needed." Giuliano had it installed to keep up-to-date on news and happenings around the world.

Drew said he is treading lightly when it comes to influencing what actions the Board of Education takes. Under Giuliano's six-year leadership, the city saw disputes and a few lawsuits over and the hiring of a .

"One thing I don’t want to do is get into the Board’s business where they have jurisdiction and they’re making decisions. They have responsibility for those decisions and it’s not going to be my responsibility to tell them exactly what to do," Drew explained Monday.

"I think we're off to a good start with the Board and Dr. Frechette and I look forward" to working with them in the future, Drew said.

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