What Does it Mean to Resolve Teachers' Contracts?
Bad Teacher. Dead Poets Society. Mean Girls. High School Musical. Each of these movies has contributed to the societal view of teachers. Whether the teacher is supportive as Ms. Darbus in High School Musical or disinterested as Cameron Diaz’s Elizabeth in Bad Teacher, fictional teachers create false narratives of the real people who shape our lives at a young age and help mold us into the adults we become. Our real teachers put in countless extra hours outside of contracted time to ensure we excel in and out of the classroom.
Since July 1,2018, the teachers in the Nutley School District have been working with an expired contract. For the teachers, this means that they have not received cost-of-living pay increases for the 2018-2019 school year.
NHS English teacher and Union Representative for Nutley High School, Ms. Jessica Lemire explained that, “essentially what [an expired contract] does is that it freezes us in salary steps.” She clarified that though they are still being paid, teachers have not seen a “cost of living increase” for the past year. “What has gone up is our health coverage contribution,” said Ms. Lemire. This means that though the teachers are making the same amount, the actual pay they bring home ends up being less because more of their paycheck is being used to pay for health insurance.
During this period, Ms. Lemire has taken on more responsibilities at school including advising the Class of 2022, producing the yearbook, and acting as a chaperone for any event she can. These extra roles are compensated, however, instead of being solely focused on her job as an English teacher, Ms. Lemire has found she is “spreading [herself] thin in other ways to make a little bit more money.”
Mr. Steven DiGregorio, a history teacher and football coach at Nutley High School, has been directly involved in negotiating a new contract with the Board of Education. “This is my second time as part of the contract negotiation team. I help represent the high school faculty and staff in order to get a positive contract,” said Mr. DiGregorio. To secure a new contract, he has been to “numerous negotiation meetings with the BOE as well as planning meetings with our negotiations team.” Along with multiple other teachers in Nutley High School, Mr. DiGregorio has also participated in job actions which includes organizing in front of the high school before contracted time, wearing their red buttons and all black.
According to Board of Education President Mr. Daniel Carnicella, it is normal for contract negotiations to take an extended period of time. “I think some of the issues that have extended many of the negotiations throughout the state, not just here in Nutley, surround state mandates and healthcare contributions,” said Mr. Carnicella, echoing Mr. Lemire’s explanation. He went on to note that “many Unions like the NJEA have continued to bargain for reduced contribution while districts remain challenged with reduced budgets and increased needs.”
In the coming weeks, both the Union and the Board of Education should be close to a resolution as Mr. Carnicella believes both parties are close to an agreement.