Story By Catherine Galioto and Chris Lundy
TOMS RIVER – After months of negotiations, including demonstrations at school board meetings and outside the district administration building, a contract for teachers at Toms River Regional Schools is in place.
The contract includes a retroactive 3.4 percent salary increase for 2016, a 3 percent raise for 2017-18 and 3.1 percent raises in 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
On the benefits side, the contribution to health insurance premiums will be 17 percent for a family plan, 22 percent for an employee plus a spouse, and 27 percent for single coverage, for a teacher who makes $62,431, the median salary.
Superintendent David Healy said it is a fair contract.
“It’s fiscally sound and does not in any way compromise the many educational opportunities for students,” he said.
The contract between the board and the Toms River Education Association was approved March 28, and Council President Ben Giovine said after the meeting that the time spent negotiating was in part because of the few contract mediators available through the state, and their schedules. He said previously the board always shared support and appreciation to the teachers, and that neither side left the negotiation table.
“The board and the TREA worked extremely hard for the better part of the year,” Healy said, “and they remained student focused.”
He said that the length of negotiation was not attributed to any bad blood between negotiators. Rather, it was indicative of how negotiations are statewide. Particularly, the sun setting of Chapter 78 adds another layer of negotiations. This involved the part of contracts where teachers were required to contribute a percentage of their health insurance.
“My observation was that it never interfered with our faculty putting kids first and making them the number one priority,” he said. The negotiations also did not ruin relations between the faculty and board.
“Everyone should be commended for that,” he said.
There were some outside rumors that misinformed or mischaracterized the events going on in negotiations, but the actual negotiators on both sides remained professional, he said.
“The objective on both sides was to be fair, and create a contract that didn’t compromise educational programs, and was fiscally responsible,” he said.
Healy also took the time to compliment the teachers who have been instituting a number of programs over the last few years, such as full day kindergarten, academies, and preparing for next year’s career academies. None of this could have been done with the quality and speed that came about without the faculty.
In addition to the teachers’ salaries, those teachers who serve as coaches or co-curricular activity guides shall receive 3 percent increase to that compensation for 2017-18. There are no increases for those positions’ compensation for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
There is also new language regarding teacher observations, such as using written forms and timelines to providing the teacher access to their observation and evaluations.