East Newark teachers get new contract … that lasts until June

After a 3-year wait, East Newark Public School teachers have a new labor contract but before the current school year ends, they’ll be back at the bargaining table again.

The new agreement, ratified by the teachers’ union members Oct. 12 and approved by the borough Board of Education Oct. 15, is retroactive to July 1, 2015, and runs through June 30, 2019 — the end of the current school year.

Richard Corbett, superintendent/principal of the borough school district, said the pact provides for pay increases (over and above normal step increments) averaging 2.7% a year, costing the district $26,912 yearly, averaged over the 4-year life of the contract.

“The board was concerned about keeping the [pay] increases equitably distributed among the teachers,” Corbett said, and it was the process of working toward that goal that accounted for much of the extended time to reach an agreement with the union, he added.

Along the way, both sides went through fact-finding and super-conciliation mediation before concluding a memorandum of agreement a few weeks before the start of the fall term.

Retroactive payments covering the period prior to the current school year will be sent out in phases “over the course of the year,” according to Corbett, so as to minimize the tax impact on employees.

Of the district’s 23 certified-teaching personnel (including a nurse), 13 are tenured, according to Corbett.

The New Jersey Education Association has claimed the borough teachers are the lowest-paid in the state — a situation that makes it tougher for employees to support their families and for the district to hold onto its instructors.

And, even with the modest pay boost, starting pay for a teacher with only a B.A. on step one of the salary guide isn’t budging much, going from $38,000 to $40,260 over the life of the contract. It takes 23 years to reach top pay which — for a teacher with an M.A. plus 30 credits — will actually drop, from $75,940 to $69,000 a year, by June 30, 2019. (Corbett said no teacher is at the top of the guide.)

The new contract awards teachers slightly higher “extra compensation pay.” For a “missed prep” period, compensation will rise over the life of the contract, from $28.33 to $33.75; coaching stipends will go from $781.69 to $869.76; lunch/breakfast duty, from $20.23 to $22.50; and after school/home school/summer school, from $40.49 to $45.

The number of teacher professional days goes from four to five and teacher meetings are extended by 15 minutes.

Employee health care coverage provisions call for conversion of single-person benefits for non-tenured teachers, from N.J. Direct 10 ($10 co-pay for in-network office visits) to N.J. Direct 15 ($15 co-pay in-net visits). Also, teachers hired after July 1, 2009, who achieve tenure, are eligible for family or spouse-partner coverage through N.J. Direct 15 or may purchase coverage through N.J. Direct 10 by paying the difference between the plans plus the Chapter 78 contribution.

Generally speaking, the district will provide dental coverage to eligible employees “no more than 85% of the current year’s premium. Any premium costs in excess of this amount shall be borne by the participating teacher. The [teachers’ union] shall designate the dental plan.” Additional costs for family and dependent coverage “shall be paid for by the teacher electing this option.”

Generally speaking, the district will provide a $5 prescription co-pay plan for eligible employees at “no more than 85% of the current year’s premium.”

In other business conducted at the Oct. 15 meeting, the school board:

  • Hired Kearny attorney Cecilia M. E. Lindenfelser — who sits on the Kearny Board of Education — as board counsel at $150 per hour, as needed.
  • Accepted Corbett’s recommendation to hire Harold Kenner as a music teacher to replace a teacher who resigned and to hire Margaret Jackson as an art teacher in place of another teacher who was dismissed.

Learn more about the writer ...