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Hopewell Valley school board reaches new contract with teachers

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education and the Hopewell Valley Education Association have come to terms on a  new three-year contract.

The Hopewell Valley Education Association (HVEA) represents more than 400 certificated teaching staff employees, which consist of teachers, child study team members, guidance counselors and athletic trainers in the school district.

“The board was focused on reaching a settlement that was fair to the hardworking members of the HVEA and respectful to the taxpaying community,” said Michael Markulec, Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education Negotiations Committee Chair. “I would like to thank my colleagues Sarah Tracy, Deborah Linthorst and Board President Alyce Murray, as well as,district administrators, Assistant Superintendent Anthony Suozzo and Business Administrator Robert Colavita, for their work throughout this process.”

The new contract will run from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021.

The settlement calls for annual salary increases of 2.95%, 3.05% and 3.15% to the salary guide for HVEA staff members.

“The settlement provides the salary guide and annual increases for our HVEA staff members. The settled contract allows our staff members to receive the raises they are due, including retroactive pay and financial relief for some members who contribute the most toward their health care premiums,” Murray reported.

She also said from the board of education’s perspective, having the contract settled provides the board with valuable information about salaries, raises and benefits expectations to support the  ability to more accurately budget for the coming year.

The median teacher salary in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District is $82,152. The median salary in the Princeton Public Schools is $81,583; $70,480 in the East Windsor Regional School District; and $64,386 in the Lawrence Township Public Schools, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.

The Board of Education Negotiations Committee consisted of Markulec, Murray, Tracy, and Linthorst, according to district officials.

The negotiations have taken place for more than 14 months, since March of 2018.

“I also would like to express my gratitude to the HVEA collective bargaining team,” Markulec said. “They were extremely professional throughout the entire negotiations process. We were happy to reach this settlement and are committed to working collectively with the HVEA on the challenges ahead.”

According to district officials, the new contract also maintains Chapter 78 health benefit contributions while providing some relief for HVEA members at the top of the salary guide who are contributing the most towards their health benefit premiums.

“HVEA members, the administration, and the Board of Education have cultivated an important collaborative working relationship that prioritizes our students. The settlement respects our hardworking staff members of the HVEA and the taxpaying community,” Murray said. “We are committed to continue to working collectively to improve our district and meet future challenges.”

The new agreement will allow for an increase in instructional time by 20 minutes at the Timberlane Middle School providing the opportunity to implement a new schedule in September of 2020, while equalizing teaching time, officials said.

In the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, instructional time is the number of classroom minutes. In other districts, it includes time spent with students outside of the classroom.

“We are fortunate to work in a district where our HVEA members, administration, and the Board of Education have a collaborative working relationship that keeps the best interest of students in the forefront,” said HVEA President Danielle Arias.

The agreement has been ratified by the HVEA and approved by the board of education.

“We are pleased to have worked out a fair agreement that addresses the respective needs of all stakeholders,” Arias said.

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