South Orange-Maplewood Education Association Statement

South Orange-Maplewood Education Association

 

For Immediate Release

 

 

SOMEA is disheartened that once again the district has chosen to leave the bargaining table. This time the District is recalcitrant despite having the services of a mediator and after only one short meeting with that mediator and notwithstanding the commitment of SOMEA and the mediator to spend the hours necessary to secure a fair contract. The District’s decision is all the more reckless given the disruptions to learning caused by the myriad positions daily left vacant by staff who have understandably left for significantly higher compensation and

employee-friendly environments in neighboring districts.

Equally odious is the District’s stale sound bite that they have been generous in offering a 12% increase in salary despite the fact that they are aware its proposed percentages do not remedy in any material way the District’s failure to keep pace with its neighboring districts in paying its teachers. Throughout its efforts, SOMEA has consistently asked the District merely to catch up by paying its teachers 6.14% in year one and then only county average in the subsequent years of the contract. As the District cautions its teachers, equal is not the same as equitable, and it is equity which SOMEA seeks via pay increases not near equal percentages applied to materially lower salaries. Indeed, the Association took great care to research its position on salary increases and has published the contracts of neighboring districts to evidence the gross disparity in the significantly lower salaries SOMSD chooses to pay its teachers despite being in identical or wealthier district factor groups as districts like Livingston, Montclair, and West Orange. Unlike the District, SOMEA has been forthright and consistent in its position since the inception of the negotiations.

To quote our own parents who correctly understand the District’s specious offer:

If the District pays teachers $2 per year and increases salaries by even 100%, then it is paying teachers $4 per year. But if other districts are already paying teachers $5 per year, it doesn’t matter if the District increased salaries by 100%. The percentages do not matter. What matters is that $4 is still less than $5 per year.

 

Let’s compare the District’s 4.5% offer and our 6.14% proposal for our lowest and highest salaries to West Orange’s 2021-22 salary guide:

SOMEA’s lowest salary on the guide is $50,060.

The District has offered:

$50,060 x 4.5% = $2,253                                       $50,060 + $2,253= $52,313

West Orange’s lowest salary on the guide is $60,011: a difference of -$7,698. SOMEA has asked for 6.14%:

$50,060 x 6.14% = $3,074                                     $50,060 + $3,074= $53,134

This is a difference of -$6,877 when compared to West Orange’s lowest salary.

SOMEA’s highest salary on the guide is $98,950.

The District has offered:

$98,950 x 4.5% = $4,453                                       $98,950 + $4,453 = $103,403

West Orange’s highest salary on the guide is $119,101: a difference of -$15,698. SOMEA has asked for 6.14%:

$98,950 x 6.14% = $6,076                                     $98,950 + $6,0756= $105,026

This is a difference of -$14,075 when compared to West Orange’s highest salary.

Additionally, these numbers do not even account for the increases in longevity West Orange provided, confirming their commitment to keeping the teachers it values.

Perhaps the District’s seeming inability to grasp basic mathematics is not surprising since it has been disingenuous every step of the way, starting with failing to provide its proposed terms of negotiations when due in February 2021 and then subsequently declining to find a date to meet with SOMEA’s negotiations team until late May 2021 and then unilaterally declaring an impasse shortly into the very first meeting after SOMEA was afforded the opportunity to present a single term of negotiations – equitable salary increases. Now the District underhandedly seeks through its terms to further widen the disparity by excluding monies paid to high school teachers assigned to teach a sixth class from their retirement income and demanding additional duties from middle school teachers and reducing the monies paid to elementary teachers who are assigned to monitor student lunches during their own lunch periods.

Perhaps most shocking is the effort by the District to condition pay increases on sacrificing the health and safety protections of the Sidebar Agreement which permits members to keep windows open given the admittedly antiquated and inadequate – and in some cases

non-existent — ventilation systems in our rooms when we seek to protect the health of our

 

students, families, and ourselves. It is nonsensical for the District to ask SOMEA to render null and void an agreement they negotiated and entered into just one year ago — and is further supported by court order. This position is all the more nefarious given not only have teachers collaborated with building administrators to find effective solutions to the ventilation and heating issues within the buildings to provide in-person instruction, but the District has already committed to installing adequate ventilation systems within the next two years with the $160 million bond it secured to make such improvements. Nor can the Sidebar Agreement be called onerous to the District, as the District has maintained in all of its communications its ability to operate in person within the terms of the Sidebar Agreement. The only logical conclusions are that the District never intended to honor the Sidebar Agreement, and it is using a red herring to stall negotiations to deprive teachers of equity.

SOMSD prides itself as a district which models social justice. That fair treatment needs to start with good-faith efforts by the Board to secure a contract which fairly compensates its teachers NOW.

WE REMAIN READY AND AVAILABLE TO MEET WITH THE DISTRICT.

 

 

SOMEA NEGOTIATIONS TEAM

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