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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Glen Rock teachers agree to pay freeze.

Reprinted from Bergen Record, www.northjersey.com, 4/12/10

In a bold move going against the grain of the state’s teacher’s union, the Glen Rock Education Association (GREA) agreed Monday to take a pay freeze for the 2010/2011 school year.

In exchange, the BOE agreed not to outsource any custodial positions for at least one year.

"I cannot tell you how grateful we are, and the entire town of Glen Rock should be, that our teachers have proven once again that they do put the welfare of our children and this district paramount in their thinking," said BOE Vice President Barbara Steuert, a member of the negotiation committee.

Meanwhile, the Glen Rock Administrators Association will also agree to a wage freeze – meaning that all employees in the district will be working at the current salaries in the next school year.

On March 31, the BOE voted 5-3-1 against ratifying a tentative agreement it reached with the GREA in February after more than two years of negotiations. The agreement was reached before school officials learned the district would receive no state financial aid for 2010-11. At the March 31 meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Verducci and Business Administrator Michael Rinderknecht agreed to take pay freezes, and some BOE members asked the district’s teachers to make similar concessions.

On Monday night, the BOE voted 8-0-1 in favor of the revised agreement. Trustee Carlo Cella III, whose wife is a teacher in the district, abstained. The mood at the meeting was jovial, with rounds of applause coming from the audience of mostly parents and teachers after the announcement.

GREA President Sue McBride said the teachers voted "in a significant majority" to support the revised contract at its meeting on Monday afternoon, and called her membership’s decision "magnanimous."

"They acted with grace under pressure, keeping in mind the students, programs and schools of Glen Rock, and also with hopes of saving the jobs of colleagues," she said.

McBride said that although the state teacher’s union, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), had advised the GREA to "stand up to the bullying of the governor," Glen Rock had been in a unique position.

"There were a lot of things in play here: protracted bargaining, significant cuts in the budget and an upcoming [public] vote," McBride said. "At the end of the day, it’s the [local] membership’s vote. The NJEA respects that."

A spokesperson for NJEA could not be reached for comment at press time.

Rinderknecht said the pay freezes from the GREA will save the district about $800,000, and the freeze from the administrators association should save approximately $35,000. Further, in exchange for pay freezes, Governor Chris Christie offered last month to give districts the money the state would save on Medicare and Social Security tax contributions — an amount that would provide 7.65 percent in extra aid for every dollar gained in savings.

Steuert emphasized that the BOE will "do our best to focus the reinstatement on classrooms."

Verducci underlined that even with the concessions, there was still an $857,000 budget shortfall in Glen Rock, and the district’s list of cuts will still be applied.

"But based on the concessions of all employees, that list would get dramatically shrunk," Verducci said.

Rinderknecht said such a jostling of the budget leading into a school election was unprecedented.

"I’ve been in the business 30 years and I’ve never seen this before," he said. "We’re freeing up money where we can bring back lost positions, but post-election, so the cart’s in front of the horse. We’re going to try to spare as many positions as possible with the monies that were freed up."

The district’s agreement with the GREA includes pay increases already negotiated for most employees for each school year from June 2008, when the union’s previous contract expired, to this year. The district anticipated those pay increases in its 2008-09 and 2009-10 budgets, and the raises will be applied retroactively.

Steuert added that the new agreement includes some pay adjustments for the top tier of teachers, so that no employee would be paid less after healthcare premium adjustments were made.

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