After going three years without a contract, it appears a breakthrough has been reached in efforts by East Newark Public School teachers to reach a deal with their employer.

Richard Corbett, principal/superintendent of the borough’s single school, confirmed last week that the teachers’ union leadership and Board of Education have inked a Memorandum of Agreement.

The MOA — which was signed July 17 by East Newark Education Association co-presidents Jeanine Cruz and Diane Figueroa and East Newark BOE president Marlene Smith — details terms for a proposed new labor agreement — but before that agreement can take effect, the union membership must vote on the proposal.

Once they approve, then those same terms go before the borough school board for its approval.

Corbett said the fact that both sides have reached this point “shows both sides are making significant progress” toward the signing of a new contract and a “positive beginning for the new school year.”

However, neither Corbett, nor BOE labor attorney Mark Tabakin nor New Jersey Education Association field representative Kevin McHale would disclose terms of the MOA unless and until the union members sanction the deal.

McHale did, however, say that the new contract — as proposed in the MOA — would be retroactive to July 1, 2015, which is when the old contract expired.

And he said that a union ratification vote has been scheduled for Sept. 12, by which time all the teachers will have returned from summer vacation.

The union and BOE have gone through labor mediation and “super conciliation” in prior unsuccessful efforts to arrive at a settlement so the fact that now they have achieved labor peace comes as something of a surprise.

East Newark teachers are the lowest-paid public school instructors in the Garden State.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Kearny, that town’s Board of Education and its teachers have resolved a dispute over the status of the district’s health insurance provider.

Earlier this year, after a lapse in employee health coverage by Horizon, the contracted carrier – and after a handful of teachers had claims rejected by Horizon – the Kearny Education Association picketed BOE administrative offices and KEA members showed up en masse at BOE meetings to register their displeasure.

Ultimately, the BOE managed to get all claims reimbursed and at a June 25 special meeting, voted to switch, from Horizon to Aetna, effective Aug. 1. Had the district stayed with Horizon, its premium would have risen by $600,000, it was advised by Ron Smith, the interim business administrator. Aetna, which is reportedly providing 90% of the coverage previously afforded by Horizon, was seen in Smith’s judgment, as the better of the two alternatives, Smith concluded.

According to district budget figures, for the 2017-2018 school year, the district paid out $16,965,944; for the current school year, the district is projecting it will pay $17,943,242.  

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