HILLSBOROUGH: School board approves contract addendum after disputes from teacher’s union

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By Andrew Martins, Managing Editor
A last minute hitch in what was supposed to be the finalization of negotiations between the Hillsborough Township Board of Education and the Hillsborough Education Association has since been smoothed over, after district officials passed an addendum to the existing contract., During the school board’s school board meeting, members unanimously approved a change to the newly minted contract for teachers and professionals within the district., “The HEA took exception to the board’s interpretation of a negotiated change in the contract … regarding the school calendar,” board member Thomas Kinst said. “The board accepts and affirms the HEA’s position.”, According to the amendment, the district’s school year will feature a five day extension for school nurses so they can conduct their intake for special needs students and medications prior to the start of a new year., When the contract was ratified during the Jan. 30 board meeting, representatives with the HEA said the document did not properly account for those pro-rata days. Instead, HEA President Henry Goodhue contested, the wording potentially served as “an opening to bring the staff in prior to the start of their contracts.”, In Hillsborough, teachers’ contracts state that they will work from September 1 to June 30 on any given year., With the addendum in place, those five extra days will be added for the district’s nurses outside of their normal contracts and will not affect other HEA members., The issue of interpretation for both parties proved to be so contentious that the HEA refused to officially sign the contract until steps were made to address the issue., Though Kinst initially disagreed with the HEA’s interpretation and suggested that their signatures were not needed for the contract’s acceptance by the state, he said the addendum was drafted and discussed as soon as Jan. 31., With both parties now in agreement, the contract marks the end of an often contentious 14 month negotiation process., “While it is disappointing that an addendum was even required, we are satisfied that the original language has been restored and the board’s attempt to unilaterally change the school calendar was thwarted,” Goodhue said., With the calendar issue squared away, the new three-year contract will cover the period of July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2019., The contract includes pay increases for each salary step, as well as increases to longevity pay., Under the new contract, salaries for all employees under the contract will go up by 2.65 percent for the 2016-17 school year and 2.5 percent in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years., The contract also covered health benefits for full-time, part-time and long-term substitutes., For the first year, employees will continue with their current health care contribution system, since it will be the fourth year of its implementation., During the second year of the contract, however, contributions for certificated and non-certificated staff will be different., According to the district, certificated staff will contribute 20 percent to their benefits, while non-certificated staff will contributed based on tier four of the state mandated Chapter 78 payment structure. That method will vary based on salary, typically ranging anywhere from five percent to 35 percent, though there will be a cap at 20 percent., During the third year, certificated staff will contribute to 21 percent of their health benefits and non-certificated staff will stay at tier four with a cap at 21 percent., Earlier this year, the district went private with their health insurance, which means that health benefits provided by the district also include dental and vision coverage., Changes to long-term substitute stipends and benefits were also included in the contract., Previously, long-term subs were paid at the same rate as teachers on the tenure track were paid at the first step of the salary guide. The new contract features a per-diem rate and health benefits that is separate from full-time teachers., Coach stipends were also given a boost based on the size of their respective programs. The district also added 10 class advisers at Hillsborough High School and a bursar position at Hillsborough Middle School. Those positions will come with a stipend., In addition, the contract formally codified language from prior agreements or rulings with regard to sick leave banking in order to get in line with the state’s maximum allowed amount.