The Camden School District and its teachers’ union have reached a contract agreement that includes a raise, officials announced Thursday, ending a three-year battle.
The five-year pact, which is retroactive to 2018 and extends through June 2023, gives 1,100 teachers, educational assistants, and other school workers contract increases worth 15.2%. Their health benefits won’t change.
Union members will receive three years of retroactive increases of about 3% and two annual increases going forward of 3% each.
Keith Benson, president of the Camden Education Association, said the deal was a “relief” and gives employees “hard-earned raises to their income allowing them to keep pace with rising living costs.”
Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs called the contract “fair and equitable” and said the deal “recognizes the hard work and tireless dedication of our classroom teachers, especially over the last school year.”
“Now we look forward to working shoulder-to-shoulder with our dedicated teachers to address the learning loss and socioemotional challenges our students faced because of the pandemic,” McCombs said in a statement.
Benson said the pact doesn’t mean the union — which considered striking at the start of the school year if a deal wasn’t reached — is on good terms with the district.
“Our long-term survival is still under constant threat,” Benson said. “This contract is the bare minimum, and you don’t get kudos for the bare minimum.”
Camden recently closed four schools, a move that affected 1,200 students and left one city neighborhood without a traditional public school. The district has struggled with declining enrollment and financial problems.
The school system hasn’t announced layoffs, but Benson said he fears those could be coming. He said the district is overly focused on the city’s charter and Renaissance schools — public schools managed by private education companies — and not concerned with boosting enrollment and accelerating change in the schools it runs.