EHT school board releases details of teacher contract negotiations

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Details of the contract negotiations between the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education and the Education Association were released by school board member Thor Himley at a public meeting Tuesday, May 13. Education Association President Kathy Waszen appeared taken aback by the disclosure.

Until the parties met with a state-appointed fact finder on April 22, the meetings had been held in closed sessions, but Himley said the fact finder’s soon-to-be released report will be a public document.

“As there are already several erroneous rumors spreading about the hearing and positions taken, it is important to communicate the respective committee proposals in order to ensure transparency in the process with the greater Egg Harbor Township community,” Himley said, reading from a prepared statement. “To improve this transparency, the board has compiled a summary of key issues remaining in disagreement in negotiations. This is not a complete list, as there are some other minor issues that remain proposed by each party.”

Himley, chairman of the school board’s personnel committee, handed out a chart summarizing what he said were the parties’ stances on the key matters of salaries, health care plan contributions and work hours. 

According to the chart, the association declined the board’s offer to increase the amount of time teachers devote to professional development and interaction with students by lengthening the work day by 25 minutes to 7 hours and 25 minutes and to use “unassigned time” in the teachers’ school day for this purpose as well.

Himley stated that the association has asked for a three-year increase in teacher, custodial and maintenance salaries totaling 14.5 percent, whereas the board has proposed salary increases totaling 5.3 percent over the same time frame. He said the board has proposed a 5.3 percent increase for secretarial and paraprofessional salaries over three years, while the association has requested these salaries be increased by 16.5 percent over three years.

Himley said the board has offered a plan that would reduce health care premiums for employees by increasing the co-pay for doctor visits by $5 and increasing the co-pay for brand-name prescriptions while lowering the cost of generic drugs.

Waszen appeared to be shocked that the board approved of the public discussion about the negotiations and said that Himley’s summary was inaccurate.

“I might believe almost half of what you said if I wasn’t sitting across the table from you at that meeting,” she said.

“You wouldn’t even open the book that the association prepared. What does that tell you when an elected leader doesn’t have the respect to look at months’ worth of work?” Waszen continued.

“I am extremely disappointed with every board member. This report does not include all of the things we’ve put out (since the first meeting in 2012) that the board said no to. The superintendent and one board member are stopping this. I am asking the board to have some guts.”

Ray Ellis, the only other board member to speak on the matter, said the report Himley provided was “a big disgrace.”

“This report says ‘the board’ but I had nothing to do with this. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Ellis said. “Our teachers love our kids and are doing fine job. Let’s get this thing done.”

Himley said he felt that the report was needed to dispel rumors.

“Although there has been a lot of conjecture in the community regarding the positions of the association and the board, these are the factual, current positions of the parties as presented at the fact finding hearing,” Himley read.

“To be perfectly clear and transparent, the community should know that just as these current positions may not reflect where the parties started in negotiations, nor do they necessarily reflect where the parties will end through the negotiations process. Additionally, care should be taken to not isolate these proposals or contract details as they are often intertwined and correlated with one another.”

The fact finder’s report is expected as early as next week. Both parties said they are hopeful that it will be the basis of an agreement.

This chart was handed out to the public present at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 13. This chart was handed out to the public present at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 13.

 

 

Read more: 

 

EHT teachers rally before contract meeting

 

Negotiations stall  between EHT school board, union

EHT schools open without custodial staff

 


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