Apparently Our Montclair Schools Contract Also Has District, Taxpayers, Paying For Full-Time Union President

We posted last week about the contract Sean Spiller negotiated in Wayne that lets him not teach, and asked about the situation vis-à-vis the contract and our union president Gayl Shepard here in Montclair.

At the time, we wrote that the contract in Montclair didn’t contain such a provision. Turns out, we hadn’t looked at it carefully enough. Here’s the contract (the old one, anyway, we haven’t been able to find the new one, but we doubt this has changed), and it does have such a provision:

20.9  Release Time:
Presidential Release time: The association may purchase up to 100% of an elected president’s work schedule from the board at the median salary for the president’s employment group (i.e.; teacher, aide, secretary) calculated in the previous year.
Vice-Presidential Release time: if the president of the MEA is incapacitated and unable to work as an employee of the board for longer than 60 days, The Vice president will assume the duties and the benefits provided the president for release time.

This means that the association (Montclair Education Association – the union) pays the district for Shepard’s time, and she doesn’t teach, as this clip we’d originally noted indicates. 

We got a two emails from folks after the post noting much the same:

No, Shepard does not teach and I believe it is a matter of public record. 


Gayl S. makes around $125,0000.   Her full time job is the union.  She has no classroom responsibilities.  She remains on the full time payroll of the MPS and as per the agreement with the MEA, the MEA reimburses the MPS 50% of her comp.  I suspect every school district does it a little differently.  Still, the relevant question is if the job really requires a full time person?  And there is some sort of clerical assistance, not, I believe, paid for in any way by MPS, though MOS does provide an office.

Based on what we can tell, that provision means that Shepard works full time on union matters, and the union is supposed to pay the district for this out of the members union dues. Given how relatively small the Montclair Education Association is (and therefore how small the budget is), I would imagine that most of the money in the members pay into the budget in their dues would go to this, leaving relatively little funds left over otherwise.

That’s all despite the fact the union is only required to reimburse the district for the median salary for a teacher. We don’t know if the emailer is right about Shepard now making $125,000. According to these records, as of 2012-2013, she made $100,910.

According to the 2014 Montclair Schools Budget, the median Montclair teacher salary in 2011-12 was $68,208. In 2012-13 it was $65,649 (probably reflecting some retirements that knocked it down a bit). We’d expect it would be higher in the next few years, since the teachers negotiated a raise in a the 2013 contract.

Given all of that, there’s likely a pretty substantial gap between what the district pays out to Shepard, and what the union pays the district using teachers’ dues. And that’s not even counting the pension, health care, etc. that we assume she still receives. The contract appears to only speak to reimbursing median salary, not any of the other costs.

So the school district itself is paying tens of thousands of dollars extra to subsidize that, and the union members fees are as well. The email is wrong the agreement pays for half of her comp in the literal sense, but it does seem like at Shepard’s salary level, the compensation does work out that way. 

This is interesting to us for a few reasons, beyond the costs incurred to the district:

  • We’re not clear what a full-time teacher union president does in a district like Montclair. We think the emailer raises a good question about whether this is really a full time role. As we understand it, the job would be to deal with labor disputes, etc., but Montclair is a pretty modestly sized district and as best we do there isn’t a long going on like that, so what are we paying her to do? And is it the most effective use of our resources?
  • If you look at the other districts we noted in the post about Spiller, this is pretty unprecedented. Most other comparable districts have extremely limited provisions for this – allowing for just a few days off to deal with issues as they come up. 
  • Finally, we’ve heard from numerous folks via email – but can’t substantiate – that the district hasn’t been paid by the Union for Shepard’s time over the past few years. We’re not sure if there’s a way to verify that – we’ve tried. But maybe someone can clue us in on the details of this? Does the MEA owe the district money? And if so, how much?

We want to be clear that we don’t see this as an issue specific to Shepard (we’ve obviously had other issues with her approach, generally, but are pleased with the news this week) – this is what the contract that was negotiated says, and she’s doing her job as union president, which the members elected her to. But it does seem to us to be a strange provision, and we don’t personally agree with that component of the contract.

***We want to add a caveat to the above: we’re only able to go off of information sent us and things we can find publicly, so if we’re wrong about any of the details here based on our limited information about contracts, etc., please let us know, and we’ll happily correct them.***




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