A mediation session has been scheduled for Dec. 8 as representatives of the Colts Neck K-8 School District Board of Education and the Colts Neck Township Education Association (CNTEA) attempt to hammer out a new contract.
According to Business Administrator Vincent Marasco, the board’s previous contract with the CNTEA was a two-year agreement that was in effect from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015.
Marasco said there was a salary increase of 5.2 percent for the 2013-14 school year and 5.1 percent for the 2014-15 school year. The figures represent the increase in the total amount of money that was paid to the district’s teachers. Not every teacher was guaranteed to have a salary increase during the course of the contract.
According to information posted on the school district’s website, effective July 1, 2015, health insurance premium costs increased by 15 percent ($477,000) from 2014.
The board’s negotiations committee proposed increasing the association’s co-pays as a way to generate savings. The current co-pays are $5 for office visits, $25 for emergency room visits and $0 for ambulatory and outpatient surgery and inpatient hospital stays.
All proposed increases would generate savings that would be shared among association members and the district, with the union’s share of the savings estimated at up to 30 percent, according to the board.
The finance/negotiations committee is made up of board members Kathryn Gizzo, Danielle Alpaugh and Jacquelyn Hoagland and board president Dr. Kimberly Raymond. The committee’s co-administrators are Marasco and Superintendent of Schools MaryJane Garibay. Attorney Michael Gross represents the committee.
According to information on the district’s website, the two parties met eight times between February and the contract’s expiration on June 30.
On June 1, the CNTEA requested that impasse procedures be implemented, which resulted in a meeting on Aug. 31 with a mediator appointed by the state Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). There is a second mediation meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.
At a Nov. 18 board meeting, CNTEA members filled the room as a sign of unity during contract negotiations.
Association President Jeff Pringle read a letter to the board and said, “The CNTEA is attending tonight’s meeting as a show of unity; the fact that we as a staff always work together for what is best for all our students.
“On the first day of school I restated to everyone our core belief as educators; the children matter most. But I want you to know this, to each of these students who matter the most, we matter the most; every one of us who works with your children day in and day out. We care about them and they care about us. We have always and will continue to be dedicated in everything we do. “Even though we once again are under an expired contract, we continue to be hardworking professionals who care for and provide the best education for the children of Colts Neck. We go above and beyond for your children, even at times at the expense of our own. We did not get into education to become rich, we did it to enrich; enrich the lives of everyone we come into contact with both in and out of the classroom.
“We encourage and expect our students to work together. Tonight we ask the board to join us in living up to that standard. On Dec. 8, our negotiation team will meeting with yours. This will be the second time we have agreed. Hopefully this meeting will be beneficial and productive.
“All the teachers, child study team (members), custodians, instructional assistants, computer technicians, nurses, secretaries, maintenance workers, and lunch, bus and recess aides will continue to stand together in working for a fair settlement. I hope and look forward to the same,” Pringle said.
In response to the CNTEA’s presence at the meeting, Raymond said, “I am always excited to see staff, parents and community members at our board meetings. The packed board room at our last meeting was no exception to this.
“The work we do affects many people, but should be of particular interest to the staff of the district, as the decisions and discussions that occur directly impact those working in the district. I truly enjoy the presence of district staff, as it allows the board and the superintendent to publicly commend certain staff members on an accomplishment or initiative that deserves recognition.
“Attendance at board meetings allows staff to stay informed and abreast of the issues that affect the district, as well as having a better understanding of the decisions the board makes and how it arrives at such decisions. I encourage attendance by all stakeholders in the district and welcome continued collaboration between the Colts Neck teachers and staff and the board as we strive toward the common goal of excellence in Colts Neck schools,” Raymond said.
— Contact Peter Elacqua at email@example.com