Two more school employee groups were placed in the fold last Monday, Dec. 21, as the Kearny Board of Education made like Santa in delivering new labor contracts to department chairs and educational office professionals.
BOE secretary/business administrator Michael DeVita said that checks containing retroactive pay adjustments should be mailed out soon to union members.
Having previously inked an agreement with the custodial/ maintenance force, the board has only its teachers and administrators left to sign.
Each of the three employee groups whose members have ratified their new contracts will be in line for pay raises totaling 8.5% over the life of the contracts, which are retroactive to July 1, 2014, and run through June 30, 2017, according to BOE documents.
Anticipating a large presence of teachers, the KBOE opted to move its meeting place to the high school auditorium to accommodate an orderly crowd of teachers wearing red shirts and carrying signs calling for action on a new contract, as they have done for several months.
Still in a holiday gift-giving mood, the BOE also authorized a payment of $4,187.50 to Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood, “representing 2.5% of [her] annual base salary,” in recognition of Blood having met her declared goal to “develop and implement computer/ technology instruction at all grade levels K-8 during the 2015-2016 school year.”
Blood, whose contract runs from Nov. 15, 2014, to June 30, 2019, receives a base annual salary of $167,500.
In other business, the board:
• Paid tribute to boys and girls student athletes from 2015 fall sports teams who achieved individual, county and/or state honors.
• Approved the formation of a “dance therapy group” at the high school “at no cost to the [school board].” Facilitators Linette McShane, a permanent substitute teacher with a master’s degree in school counseling, and music teacher Milagros Gonzalez say that they will offer students a “creative and expressive way” to release stress and plan to “chaperone trips” underwritten by “fundraisers” to enhance students’ efforts in the group.
• Authorized, also at no cost to the district, a student trip to Italy during spring break, April 12-20, 2017, to be supervised by KHS language teacher Michele Cacciottola.
Several parents spoke on behalf of the teachers. Mabel Torres said her older daughter’s grades “vastly improved” thanks to her teacher’s dedication. “Treat our teachers with respect,” she said. “Give them what they deserve.” Denise Fornataro said she was “amazed by the professionalism” and “kindness” of her daughters’ teachers. “They deserve more,” she added. And Jenn Humphrey said she was “grateful” that her daughter’s teachers were there for her. “Please give them a contract.”
As calculated by the board business office, the board will be paying out a total of $581,144 in salary increases for the three-year contract period covering 79 full-time and 34 part-time employees represented by the three unions.
The pay hikes are being phased in as follows:
• For department chairs – 2.47%, effective July 1, 2014; 2.89%, effective July 1, 2015; and 3.14%, effective July 1, 2016, for department chairs.
• For office professionals and custodial/maintenance employees – 2.5%, as of July 1, 2014; 2.5%, starting July 1, 2015; and 3.5%, beginning July 1, 2016.
As part of the three new agreements, the “traditional” insurance coverage plan is being phased out, effective July 1, 2016, in favor of less costly plans.
Among contractual changes negotiated:
Department chairs can no longer use equivalency credits as a means for moving across the salary guide, they lose stipends for academic year, summer and per person; and must work the last two weeks of August.
Office professionals can be directed to report for duty even if schools are closed due to inclement weather but any employee called in for duty is entitled to an additional day off to be determined at the board’s discretion. Starting July 1, 2016, employees will receive as days off the Thursday and Friday of Teachers’ Convention week and Lincoln’s Birthday is replaced as a holiday day by the second day after Christmas.