BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Following the end of the school year, the start of a new three-year contract with the Bernards Township Education Association goes into effect as of July, awarding a raise of just over 3 percent for district teachers while also freezing or reducing the hourly wages of the aides who are also members of the association.

Responding to an email, David Yastremski, negotiator for the 642-member BTEA, said the starting salary for certificated teaching staff will be $48,426 in the 2016-17 school year; $49,655 for the 2017-18 school year; and $50,812 for the school year running from July 1, 2018 until the end of June 2019.

The three year contract covering the next three school years was approved by the Bernards Board of Education at its June 13 meeting. 

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The contract approved by both sides awards BTEA teachers a raise of 3.35 percent for the 2016-17 school year; 3.3 percent for the 2017-18 school year; and 3.1 percent for 2018-19, the final year covered in the contract. No mention of aides' salaries came up when the school board approved the contract at the June 13 meeting.

Later, Yastremski and Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian confirmed that instructional aides would have their pay frozen for three years, while school aides would have their hourly rates reduced. Yastremski said afterward that the BTEA salary guides and benefit options had reviewed and considered, and the aides' pay was set at a rate "in order to achieve greater parity with other school districts in our county, along with other demographic considerations."

More recently, Yastremski said that pay reduction would begin July 1 for any aides who work during the summer. 

He said in an email late in June that the current 'instructional aides' will be frozen at their most recet rate for the next three years, ranging between an hourly rate of $25.79 to $28.24. Current cafeteria aides and other 'school aides' will see their pay reduced from $23.79 to $20 per hour for the 16-17 year, Yastremski said in the email.

Nurse aides - a new category within the contract - will receive $25.79 for all three upcoming school years, Yastremski added in the late June email to TAP Into. Nurses aides are new positions in the contract that were previously considered 'school aides,' he said. 

Markarian had specified that instructional aides are assigned to classroom environments, largely in the special education classes, while school aides perform non-instructional supervision, usually in the cafeterias.

The  new contract retains the same health benefit package/options for full-time aides as for certificated staff, Yastremski said.

Markarian also said earlier in June that under the terms of the agreement approved on June 13, there are new reduced hourly rates for instructional and school aides hired after June 30, with rates for instructional aides higher than school aide rates. 

Board member Robin McKeon said on June 13 that the the accepted agreement, replacing a previous contract agreement that expires at the end of June, allows the school district to stay within its 2 percent state budget cap on local tax levy increases.

McKeon said the agreement has allowed changes in the health benefits packages that will result in savings both for the school district, and also for BTEA members.

She said the board's negotiators worked with the BTEA to help identify where those savings might be found. McKeon also told her fellow board members that the teachers will provide the district with an extra in-service professional development day under the terms of the agreement.

McKeon also said on June 13 that she was pleased that the board and BTEA negotiators were able to reach an agreement before the previous three-year contract expired at the end of June.