New contract officially ratified between Cherry Hill BOE, CHEA

Last Wednesday, Cherry Hill teachers and staff worked under a new contract for the first time since the conclusion of the 2013–14 school year.

Five hundred ninety-six days after the last contract between the Cherry Hill Education Association and the Cherry Hill Board of Education expired, a new agreement was finally ratified. CHEA members ratified the new contract during a vote on Feb. 12. The board later ratified the agreement during a special meeting on Feb. 16.

CHEA officials announced the association ratified the contract on its Facebook page during the evening of Feb. 12. About 94 percent of CHEA members voted in favor of the new agreement.

In a statement following ratification, CHEA officials thanked the community for their support.

“CHEA is grateful to the parents and other community members who supported us during these many months of negotiations,” the statement read.

Last Tuesday, the board voted, 8–0, to ratify the contract, with board vice president Barry Dickinson abstaining. A round of applause followed the vote and signaled the end to a contract standoff stretching more than 19 months.

Following ratification, board member Steve Robbins, chair of the board’s negotiations committee, spoke about the contract and how difficult the negotiations process was at times.

“It was a difficult negotiation and a long negotiation,” Robbins said. “But at the end of the day, I think it is a fair result.”

CHEA president Martin Sharofsky said neither side got everything they wanted in the contract, but the recommendations from the fact-finder were a fair compromise.

“Under the present conditions, this was the best contract we were going to get,” Sharofsky said.

The contract is based off recommendations state fact-finder Thomas Hartigan made to both sides during the fact-finding process last year. One difference from this contract compared to previous ones is the duration. The contracts runs four years, from the 2014–15 school year through 2017–18. It is the first time the board and association had agreed to a four-year contract, an achievement Sharofsky described as “monumental.”

Hartigan’s recommendations gave both sides the option to extend the contract to five years, but the option was not exercised.

CHEA members will receive salary increases throughout the duration of the contract. The contract includes a 2.56 percent salary increase retroactive for the 2014–15 school year, 2.8 percent increase in the current 2015–16 school year and 2.95 percent increases in each of the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years.

Robbins noted one of the board’s goals of increasing pay for starting teachers was achieved in this contract. The board is hoping it will have a positive effect for the district moving forward.

“It will help us, in the long term, in bringing in great talent and retaining it as well,” Robbins said.

CHEA members will also switch to a more cost-effective state employee health benefit plan beginning on Jan. 1, 2017.

Robbins thanked both the board and CHEA negotiations committees for their hard work and long hours during the process.

“I hope the momentum with what we’ve done in this contract carries on to future years,” he said.