As we mentioned a few days ago, we were interested in some of the stuff we saw on the Sean Spiller attack site. We were particularly interested to learn about the contracts that Spiller, as local union president, negotiated that allow him to not teach and keep getting paid.
According to the information posted on the site, the 2008 Wayne Education Association contract took Spiller out of the classroom in response to concerns that his students were being disrupted by frequent interruptions for him to handle union business. Spiller was reassigned to instead serve as a mentor, tutor, and to sit on instructional committees. In 2011, Spiller got an even sweeter deal. Under that contract, Spiller was still paid a salary by the district, but his only duty was to serve as union president. According to reports, he was making $93,000 a year at the time.
It struck us as odd that a school district would pay a teacher to not teach (and $93,000 a year, no less!). And this got us to thinking about how Spiller’s deal might compare to those of union officials in other districts.
Starting with the articles cited by Shadyspiller.com, we found the October 13, 2008 Wayne Today article reporting that there was a “one-year sidebar agreement relating to Spiller’s status as a non-teacher. Try as we might, we couldn’t find anything about the actual contents of this “sidebar agreement,” so we can’t pass on any insight about that.
So, we then looked into teacher union contracts from Wanye and some districts in Essex County using the NJ Public Employment Relations Commission’s Public Sector Contracts database. What we found was interesting.
We started with the Wayne contracts. Comparing the contracts from 2008 and 2002 (because the 2005 contract was unavailable), we found a new provision in the 2008 contract under Article XXI: Association Rights and Privileges:
If the WEA President is a teacher, he/she shall be relieved of his/her duty periods and the administration’s half of the curriculum periods (as set forth in Article VI.A.2.c.iii) for purposes of conducting WEA business
Now we’re no experts, but to us, that looks like it’s giving Spiller time to handle union business when he would otherwise be doing regular teacher work.
We then looked to see if other union contracts contained similar language. We found out that Wayne’s contract was far more generous in granting Spiller time to work on union business.
The 2010 Verona contract offers one year of unpaid leave for representatives of the NJEA or NEA:
A tenured teacher shall upon request be granted a leave of absence without pay for up to one year to fulfill the duties of an elected office in the New Jersey Education Association or National Education Association
The 2007 South Orange – Maplewood contract allows the equivalent of 3 days:
The president of the Association shall be guaranteed release time to conduct Association business. Said release time, in partial or in full, shall be the equivalent of three (3) days per year. Except in the case of emergency, said release time shall require one (1) days written notice to the Superintendent or his/her designee.
The 2007 Glen Ridge contract allows 1 day away from the classroom:
“The president of the Association shall have no non-teaching duties (excluding homeroom) to conduct Association business. The President of the Association may have one (1) professional day for Association business per year with notification and the prior approval of the Superintendent. If the President is a non-instructional staff member, he/she will be provided release time to conduct Association business on an as-needed basis with the approval of the Superintendent or designee.“
And the most recent contracts available for Cedar Grove, Livingston, Millburn, North Caldwell, Roseland, and our very own Montclair appear to contain no such provisions. We can’t be sure that these districts (or our own) don’t have clandestine “sidebar agreements” like the Wayne union does, but from what we do know, it sure looks like Spiller got himself a heck of a deal.
We’re wondering: Does anyone know what the situation is here in Montclair? Does Gayl Shepard still teach or just work for the union now? We don’t see anything about it in the contract, but a news story we read about her election makes it sound like she isn’t teaching any more. If you have any details, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.