Union releases details of faculty contract at Elizabeth Forward

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The Elizabeth Forward Education Association on Monday released details of its new agreement with Elizabeth Forward School District.

According to a press release from Chrissy Cortazzo, who negotiated the new agreement for the teachers' union, there will be a wage freeze with no salary step movement for teachers during the 2013-14 school year, the first year of a three-year contract.

Teachers in most districts are hired at various steps, such as with a bachelor's degree, or with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, etc. The steps determine starting wages, and salaries can increase annually.

Under the new agreement with Elizabeth Forward School District, during 2014-15 and 2015-16, step movement in salaries will occur, but wages will be frozen at step levels of the 2012-13 school year. Teachers at the top of the step scale, who can no longer earn more by advancing a step, will get an $1,100 raise each year, Ms. Cortazzo said.

Teachers have been paying 3 percent of the 2009-10 premium rate for their health insurance since 2009, a percentage rate that will continue during the 2013-14 school year.

However, during 2014-15 and 2015-16, teachers will pay 3 percent of whatever the premium rate is then, a big difference, Ms. Cortazzo said.

According to her press release, all athletic and extracurricular salaries are frozen for the length of the contract.

The release stated that the teachers' union fought hard against the loss of language in the previous contract that helped prevent the district from furloughing "specials," teachers in subjects such as art, music, physical education and computers and librarians.

A state fact-finder who had reviewed the district's and teachers' demands recommended the language be removed so the district could have more flexibility to furlough based on declining enrollment, the release said.

The teachers' bargaining team released a statement through Ms. Cortazzo.

"The Elizabeth Forward Education Association recognizes that the current financial status of the Elizabeth Forward School District is precarious at this time. The members of the Elizabeth Forward Education Association have accepted these concessions in an effort to assist the district in achieving financial stability. Our first priority has been and always will be dedicated to the education of our students."

"Now we're in the process of reviewing draft language and coming up with a final [contract] document," Ms. Cortazzo said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Forward superintendent Bart Rocco said district representatives don't want to comment on the agreement until they have a final contract.

Starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in the district will be $43,620, the same as in the last year of the old contract, Ms. Cortazzo said.

Similarly, she said the top salary on the wage scale after 19 years of teaching, $85,450, will be the same throughout the new contract.

"The teachers heard the concerns of the community, the concerns of the board and the superintendent," she said.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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