The five-year deal struck following a 19-hour marathon negotiation session in March has been overwhelmingly approved by the teachers’ union membership.
Members voted 2,304-279 to ratify the contract on Thursday night.
The new accord, which runs from Jul. 2017 through Jun. 20, 2022, has a 3-percent annual pay increase for union members. Pay increases for the first two years are 3.2 and 3.4-percent. The next three years are 3-percent.
Teachers will be provided their 2017-18 pay increase retroactively. It’s not clear how much the district owes in retro pay to teachers.
Under the new accord, members get 1 extra family illness day (employees get a total of 10 sick, 5 personal, and 2 family illness days) and their health premium cannot exceed 10-percent of their annual salary.
“I have often said that our members deserve nothing less than a fair settlement. This contract shows that we now have a Superintendent in place that finally understands that in order to keep quality professionals in the district, they must offer a quality contract,” said John McEntee, president of the Paterson Education Association (PEA), the teachers’ union.
Superintendent Eileen Shafer had promised a contract within 100 days of her appointment. She has been able to keep her word.
The previous contract, stuck under governor Chris Christie, allowed teachers rated “highly effective” to move up two steps on the salary guide. Under the new contract, regardless of “effective” or “highly effective” rating teachers will move one step.
“Our negotiations team understood that in order to continue to provide the best educational experience possible for Paterson’s children, we needed to ensure that we begin to right the wrongs of the Chris Christie and Donnie Evans years,” said McEntee.
Christie pushed for merit pay for teachers based on student test scores — something teachers opposed. The new contract language appears to reverse Christie’s merit pay and restores seniority.
During negotiations, the district wanted to classify instructional assistant as part-time employees, which would strip them of their benefits. The union refused to budge. Instructional assistants will remain full-time with benefits.
McEntee noted the new contract is for five years. The previous, which expired on June 30, 2017, was for three years.
“Through this agreement, Paterson has the opportunity to foster consistency for the students,” said McEntee. “PEA members are dedicated to their careers, and this contract allows them to continue to do what they love while providing for their own families.”
The union represents almost 3,000 teachers and other staff members.
The contract will be presented to the school board next week and a vote will take place at the June regular meeting, according to Shafer.