The Montgomery Township Education Association (MTEA) voted almost unanimously on May 22 to ratify a new four-year contract, which gives Montgomery teachers and support staff almost a 2.8 percent raise each year.
“The agreement keeps us from falling further behind our neighboring districts and stops the trend of taking home less money than we took home the year before,” MTEA President Scott Mason said after the votes were counted.
The new agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2018, and will run through June 30, 2022. The settlement calls for annual salary increases for non-administrative staff of 2.9 percent the first year and 2.7 percent in each of the subsequent three years.
Also the 35 percent that staff currently pay toward health insurance premiums will be lowered to 28 percent in the second year of the agreement and 27 percent in years three and four. No other changes to health insurance plans were made.
The MTEA is made up of 638 members representing teachers and other certificated staff as well as support staff for the Montgomery Township School District. About 97 percent of the members voted in favor of ratifying the new agreement.
“It was close to the average settlement rate for Somerset County, which is 2.8 percent per year,” Mason said. “We are gratified that we were able to come to an agreement, which reduced the cap on sharing ever-rising insurance premiums with the district.”
The MTEA leadership and the Montgomery Township Board of Education mutually supported the new agreement. Contract negotiations between the Montgomery School Board and the MTEA had began in November of 2017.
Teachers rallied and held picket signs at designated times (after the school day) in the 2018-2019 school year. In February, the MTEA instituted a work-to-rule in which teachers performed work strictly as required by the language in their contracts. Some students had complained they were left without club advisors and reference letters needed from teachers. The MTEA disputed the compensation of its educators, saying it was not comparable to the level of accomplishment of the district as a whole.
“One would think,” Mason had written in a letter to the district that ran as a letter to the editor in The Montgomery News, “that a teacher working in a district which receives so many accolades would be making a salary that reflects the achievements of the district; however, in Montgomery, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years’ experience is making $76,650 per year. How does that compare to our neighboring districts: Princeton $93,050, Hopewell $89,430, West Windsor $87,350, Hillsborough $79,215, and Montgomery $76,650."
"We do not expect to gain parity with these districts in this round of negotiations, only that we keep from falling further behind in our attempts to achieve the board-established district goal of attracting and retaining high quality teachers," Mason said.
“We are fortunate," he added, "that we have a board that is willing to work collaboratively with the MTEA so that we can maintain our focus on what is in the best interest of students and the community. This is a fair agreement and we look forward to continued excellence for the Montgomery Township School District."
Board President Minkyo Chenette says, “I’d like to thank the board of education members for supporting and approving this settlement. I would especially like to thank those members of the board who joined me on the board’s negotiation team, Phyllis Bursh, Shreesh Tiwari, and Ranjana Rao who worked so long and hard for a successful outcome.”
She continued, “The board would like to thank the people of Montgomery Township for their continued support of our public education system. We appreciate all MTEA members for what they do daily for our students. The board is looking forward to continue working with the MTEA to provide the best school experience for our children."