The Board of Education voted to rescind its previous approval of $5,000 signing bonuses after the teachers’ union criticized the incentive plan for being designed without input from local educators.
Members of Ed’s board of directors voted Monday night at the last regular bi-weekly meeting of the Board of Education, held over Zoom.
The canceled vote a vote earlier this month that approved New Haven Public Schools (SNPS) last push to recruit more educators for high vacancy areas like teachers, paraprofessionals, social workers and security guards.
The reason for the reversal was not because the district filled its more than 80 vacancies amid the continuing shortage of teachers.
Instead, Ed’s Council overturned its vote after the teachers’ union served the district with a notice alleging unfair labor practices and a violation of bargaining rights.
During the public comment section of Monday’s meeting, teachers’ union president Leslie Blatteau told the board that “our union is not opposed to the use of grants to address teacher shortages and improve employee salaries. But, she said, she and her colleagues take issue with how the district did not seek proper input from teachers when developing the previously approved bonus plan.
“We oppose unilateral decision-making by management on employee compensation, which we as a union have the right to negotiate,” she said.
Whereas SNPS Superintendent Iline Tracey insisted the district had the proper authority under the union contract to offer signing bonuses, nonetheless she recommended late Monday that the Board of Education rescind its previous approval in order to maintain a strong partnership with unions and to avoid the possible perception that the district bargained in bad faith.
The now canceled initiative had already been approved at Ed’s last regular board meeting on October 11. The proposed effort was to be funded by federal pandemic relief money and would have offered tiered signing bonuses and increased hourly rates for educators who were on staff. before and after school programming. (Click on here to learn more about the now canceled plan.)
Prez of the teachers’ union: “Process Matters”
At Monday’s meeting, Blatteau said the teachers’ union and the paraprofessionals’ union were ready to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOA) with the district as soon as possible to increase hourly wages for staff working overtime before and after school.
Reached by phone after Monday’s meeting, Blatteau insisted that “process matters” and that the teachers’ union and its siblings, like the paraprofessionals’ union, must have the right to negotiate the remuneration of educators.
While he doesn’t oppose a pay rise or more incentives to hire educators, Blatteau said unions deserve a seat at the table.
If the teachers’ union was brought to the table when developing the recruiting plan, Blatteau said, she would have liked to ask how the district came up with the tiered bonus amounts and who qualifies for the bonuses. She would also have liked to talk with district leaders to think about possible plans on how to reward current teachers.
Blatteau concluded that the teachers’ union hopes to maintain and strengthen its collaboration with the school district.
The before-and-after-school wage hike would have raised pay rates for teachers to $45 an hour, paras to $25 an hour and building executives to $50 an hour.
The bonus scheme would have offered people in hard-to-fill (Tier 1) jobs – such as math teachers, special education professionals, school psychologists and healthcare professionals – a maximum bonus of 5,000 $.
Level two labeled as “high vacancy areas” included a $2,500 bonus for social workers, counselors and security guards. New paraprofessionals, meanwhile, would have received $1,250 each for level four.
A general signing bonus of $1,000 was also part of the plan for Tier Three, which included teachers of art, English and computer science.
In SNPS In Superintendent Iline Tracey’s Notice to the Board of Education, she said the District is authorized to offer signing bonuses as inducements to attract staff to special areas in accordance with Xll, Section 7 of the Bargaining Contract of the union. Tracey added that the lawyer for the teachers’ union served her with a cease and desist letter for the approved motion.
Tracey also said the school board’s attorney received notice that the union was considering filing a “prohibited act against New Haven Public Schools, the New Haven Board of Ed, as well as the Superintendent, for unilaterally determining salaries, instituting signing bonuses, and the rate of pay for staff.
Tracey said no bonuses had been paid to educators so far and the plan was to release payments at the end of the school year to avoid abrupt departures.
Goldson: Previous bonus plan was ‘rushed’
Before council members voted to cancel the premiums, Education Council Member Darnell Goldson said: “So clearly it was rushed at us without thinking. We rushed ahead without thinking too much. And now we’re sitting here embarrassed in front of all the New Haveners now trying to fix a mistake we didn’t have to make in the first place.
Goldson introduced a motion Monday night to rescind only the bonus element while maintaining the before- and after-school pay raise for all employees. He said it’s not fair that all educators lose before and after school pay due to the vote to overturn the entire motion.
His proposed amendment was not seconded and therefore failed.
“This could have been avoided with better communication. I guess good intentions are good,” said Board Vice Chairman Matt Wilcox. Board members Mayor Justin Elicker and Abie Benitez agreed.
“On the grounds that we want a very good relationship with our unions, they are our partners, not our adversaries,” said council secretary Edward Joyner.
The official vote was 6 to 1. Goldson voted against overturning the vote because he argued that the board should have received the legal document from the teachers’ union stating its complaint and demand. “I think that’s unfair. I think these are sour grapes. And paraprofessionals, as usual, will be hurt and hurt by what this council is doing,” he said.