School board, HTEA ratify teacher contract in Hamilton

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Charlie Pritchard / Following the vote, HTEA negotiating team members shake hands with the board members. Here, HTEA President Jeff Gildiner thanks board member Amelia Francis. Charlie Pritchard / Following the vote, HTEA negotiating team members shake hands with the board members. Here, HTEA President Jeff Gildiner thanks board member Amelia Francis. HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – For nearly a year and a half teachers in the Hamilton Township School District have been working without a contract. Finally, a settlement has been reached.

The Hamilton Township Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night, Dec, 17 to accept a memorandum of agreement that ratifies the contract with the Hamilton Township Education Association (HTEA). HTEA members had previously voted to accept the contract offer that covers the period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015.

The agreement calls for a three-year contract with 4 percent increase each year. In addition, three steps will be added to the salary guide, a condition that the board deemed necessary. Also, starting salaries in the third year of the agreement will be increased to $50,000.

Before the vote, two board members stated that they would support it despite reservations. Peg Capone said she would have preferred to see additional instructional time built into the contract.

“Although I will be supporting the contract, I believe it is important for the parents in our district to be aware that myself and other board members were willing to pay more if there was an increase of instruction time for the students,” she said. “Several of us are very concerned about the 40 percent of students in our district who are not performing well in language arts and math. But our offer was rejected. Therefore, we will have to find another way to help these struggling students.”

Board President Anne Erickson had concerns about the inequities in the salary guide.

“The guide still has disparate jumps,” Erickson said. “I wish they were more evened out.”

Following the vote, members of the audience, comprised mainly of district educators, rose to give a standing ovation.

Unlike previous meetings, there was little public comment. However, William Davies Middle School science teacher Michele Giardino said they were ready to put this behind them. Alluding to the next contract she added, “I don’t want to see this happen again.”

Former HTEA President Patty Fleming said that this was the fourth contract that she has been through. She complimented the negotiating team, saying they cooperated in working through problems with the contract.

“I hope that both sides have learned from this when the next negotiations happen,” Fleming told the board members.

Before the meeting closed, Erickson said it was necessary to point out that the board members are volunteers who dedicate a lot of time, and that they had taken a lot of verbal abuse during the meetings.

“We don’t get one dime for this,” she told the audience. “We are here solely for the kids, and are very proud of their accomplishments.”

Eric Aiken, the head of the school board’s negotiating team, said he was happy the process is over.

“This is a win-win for both sides,” Aiken said. “The teachers got a generous increase and the board got salary guide improvements.”

HTEA President Jeff Gildiner was satisfied with the agreement.

“It is not exactly what we wanted, but in the end, it is fair to both sides,” Gildiner said.

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