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Township school district increases wages for lowest earners

Sept. 1 session follows one last month that resulted in police action

The Gloucester Township Board of Education agreed early this month to increase wages for the district’s lowest earners, during a session that was rescheduled after police were called to deal with parents who refused to wear required masks at the Aug. 26 meeting.

The increase in hourly wages became effective Sept. 1 for bus aides, part-time custodians and substitute food-service workers, who will now earn $13 an hour.

For non-unit, one-to-one aides, the wage increase will depend on the worker’s level of education.

Individuals with a high-school diploma also will earn $13 per hour, and individuals with a paraprofessional certificate will earn $13.50. Employees with at least 16 college credits but not a bachelor’s degree will earn $14.50 per hour, and those with the degree will make $15.50.

In response to board member Jennifer O’Donnell’s question about whether or not the raises would continue to increase after New Jersey raises its minimum wage to $13 an hour in January, Superintendent John Bilodeau said he didn’t know what would happen, but that the goal for the current resolutions was to advance the minimum wage increase by four months.

Questions and concerns during the meeting’s public comment had to do with various executive orders from Gov. Phil Murphy, including the mandate that masks must be worn in school buildings and that kids attend 100 percent in person, without a remote option. Bilodeau said the district would continue to comply with orders from the governor that do not currently include a remote option, and clarified in response to one person’s question, that the district does not get paid to enforce the mask mandate.

Board member Elliott Wilson spoke during member comments about the Aug. 26 meeting and the parents who had refused to wear masks, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ mask recommendation. While generally proud of his community and its response to the pandemic, he called the previous meeting “disappointing.”

“For those people who came last week, I hope you can figure out a way to understand that masks are a singular part of a broad array of tactics to combat this insidious plague that has now, after so long, truly come for our children in a manner not seen before,” Wilson said.

“ … Masks are an important tool to protect our children, and while you may decry infringement of your right not to wear them, you’ve missed the fundamental point: Our masks protect me from you, and my masks protect you from me,” he added.

“I hope you learn to understand that, because otherwise, I don’t know how to teach you how to care about other people.”

The next board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20, at 7 p.m., in the central administration building, 17 Erial Road, Blackwood. Check https://www.gloucestertownshipschools.org for the latest updates.

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