JACKSON – Educators showed up wearing their red shirts as a show of solidarity at the May 16 board of education meeting. The district is currently negotiating a new contract with the teacher’s union.
It was during public comment that Carol Ann Mould, former Jackson teacher and current Jackson Education Association president, received a standing ovation before addressing the board and administration. She read from prepared remarks.
“We are dedicated, passionate, and devoted. We pour our hearts and souls into every student we work with, whether in the classroom, in the hallways, in the office, on the court, or out on the fields,” Mould said. Her statement referenced teachers, guidance counselors, child study team members, paraprofessionals and secretaries.
“As we continue to work with you, the board of education, through these negotiations, we respectfully understand and acknowledge your obligation to do what is best on behalf of the community, but we equally acknowledge your obligation to do what is best on behalf of your employees,” Mould said.
After the meeting, Mould spoke further about the negotiations. While neither side is allowed to speak on specifics of the negotiations, Mould did say that one concern is employee’s contribution to their health benefits packages.
Chapter 78, New Jersey’s pension and health benefits reform, requires that “the percentage rate of contribution is determined based on the employee’s annual salary and the selected level of coverage. The increased employee contributions will be phased in over a 4-year period with a minimum contribution required to be at least 1.5 percent of salary,” according to State records.
Jackson school union employees have reached that tier-4 level. While employees are mandated to contribute a minimum of 1.5 percent of their annual salary toward health benefits, the district can require they contribute more to lessen the burden on the district and, ultimately, the taxpayers.
The Jackson Times sought comment from board and administrative officials and asked who was participating in the negotiations and how close those members thought a contract was to being settled. There was no response by press time.
The board and administrators were recognizing students and staff for various accomplishments, including Elms Principal Michael Burgos and staff Whitney DiBenedictis, Jacqueline Bell and Jessica Fioretti receiving a Sustainable Schools Grant, and teachers Harry Ferone and Ethan Noble recognizing their students’ wins at the Student Television Network convention in Anaheim, California.