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District, Union Reach Agreement

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School District and its faculty union have settled on a new two-year contract.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School District and its faculty union have settled on a new two-year contract.

A five-day reduction to the current school calendar is one of the terms of the deal, according to a joint press release on Monday, Nov. 22, from the district and the Central Education Association.

The two sides reached an agreement during their Nov. 17 bargaining session -- the 11th of this year. The roughly 150-member CEA, meanwhile, ratified the contract on Monday.

The agreement runs from 2010 to June 30, 2012.

Among the key elements:

* Teachers agreed to a freeze on their salary schedule for the next two years. Those teachers eligible for step increases, however, will receive them.

* The district will increase its contribution for health insurance by 6 percent during each year of the contract.

* The agreement also reduces the 2010-11 school calendar by five days -- including three teaching days.

Currently, elementary students are running on a 168-day calendar, while middle school and high school students will go to school for 167 and 169 days, respectively.

Those cut days will take effect between February and June of 2011, said Superintendent Joseph Hunter.

The contract will also be reopened to negotiate further reduction of days in 2011-12 if projected state and federal revenues fall below a prescribed level, according to the agreement.

Before approval of the new contract, teacher salaries and benefits accounted for nearly $10 million of the district's $25.9 million general fund for the current 2010-11 school year.

The ratification of the agreement puts an end to what had been a rocky negotiation process that began in March.

In recent weeks, teachers expressed frustration about what they had described as a lack of respect from Central during bargaining.

Some also criticized an e-mail sent by Hunter to employees in late October that mentioned specific contract talking points.

"We're pleased the district chose to return to the table and complete the process with face-to-face negotiations rather than mediation," said Linda Tonagel, CEA bargaining chairwoman. "Our agreement to freeze the salary schedule and cut days is a sign of the economic times we're facing."

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