Princeton Public Schools teachers are in line for salary increases of 2.9% for the current school year, and 2.5% for the 2021-22 school year, under a two-year contract approved by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.
The Princeton Regional Education Association had previously ratified the contract before presenting it to the school board. The negotiations teams representing the teachers union and the school district spent the summer working out the details of the two-year agreement.
Under the terms of the contract, the salary for a new teacher is $57,076 for the 2020-21 school year, and $57,479 for the 2021-22 school year. A teacher at the top of the pay scale who holds only a bachelor’s degree will earn $95,126 in the first year of the contract and $95,529 in the second year.
A teacher who holds a master’s degree will earn between $61,706 and $102,874, depending on where they are placed in the salary scale in the first year of the contract. In the second year of the contract, the salary will range from $62,109 to $103,277.
Teachers who hold master’s degrees plus 30 additional credits, and those who hold doctorate degrees, earn more.
In addition to teachers, the Princeton Regional Education Association also represents guidance counselors and school counselors; nurses; librarians and media specialists; psychologists; social workers; learning consultants; supplementary instructors; therapists; and athletic trainers. The salary structure applies to them, as well.
School board member Dafna Kendal said that coming to terms on the contract was a unique challenge, because neither the school board nor the teachers union had ever negotiated a contract during a pandemic.
The negotiations were cordial and reflected the partnership between the union and the school board, Kendal said.
“This is proof that there is no reason for negotiations to be combative. If we can negotiate through a pandemic and come to what I believe is a fair contract for both sides, it can be done all the time,” Kendal said.
The contract “clearly balances” the district’s goals of fiscal responsibility, labor peace and keeping students first, Kendal said. By the time this contract expires in June 2022, the district will have experienced seven years of “labor peace,” she said, pointing to the protracted negotiations in other school districts.
Kendal said the contract also contains several cost-saving measures. The amount of extra pay for extra work remains flat. The prescription drug co-pay will double for a 90-day supply, which is a cost-savings for the district.
There is flexibility for the district to hire “leave replacements” – teachers who are hired to fill in for a teacher who is taking a leave of absence – at the bottom step of the salary guide, which is $57,076 for 2020-21. Only the employee would be eligible for health insurance. The agreement could lead to cost savings of $75,000 to $150,000, she said.
The contract also sets the tuition rates for Princeton Regional Education Association members who do not live in Princeton and who enroll their children in the Princeton Public Schools. The tuition rates apply for the duration of the contract.
For those hired before July 2015, the tuition rate is $2,500 per child. For those hired between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2020, it is $3,200 per child. The tuition for teachers hired between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, is $5,000. Those hired after July 1, 2021, will pay $7,500 per child.
Princeton Regional Education Association negotiations team member Justin Matthews thanked school board members Dafna Kendal and Michele Tuck-Ponder for working through the summer to forge a contract so union members could begin the school year with the security and protection of having it in place.
“Michele and Dafna were very open with us and honest with us. Together, we were able to solve issues and come to an agreement so we could start the school year with a sense of peace and purpose,” Matthews said.