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East Haven Teachers: We Deserve a Fair Contract

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In a show of solidarity, East Haven teachers wear RedforEd at this year’s convocation.

In the early hours after dawn, members of the East Haven Education Association (EHEA) assembled outside the high school on the morning of their convocation. Greeting them with warm pastries and hot coffee, members of their union’s bargaining team—working hard on their behalf to secure better contracts—also distributed RedforEd shirts and stickers asking for a fair contract.

“We are in a tough negotiations process,” said EHEA President Cynthia Wintjen, who has served in that role for 25 of her 30 years as an East Haven high school science teacher. “The incoming proposal is probably the worst I’ve ever seen in 30 years. Overall, it diminishes the environment for our profession. At the same time the town government has been cutting taxes and lowering the mill rate, it’s giving nothing to our board of education.”

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Members of EHEA’s bargaining team, Anthony Russell and Emilia Caturano (who is the new treasurer) welcome their union brothers and sisters.

CEA UniServ Rep Gloria Dimon agrees that it has been an uphill battle and that to win it, teachers need to stand united and get their message out.

One of the challenges, Wintjen explains, is that voters and those elected to represent them aren’t necessarily aware of how stretched East Haven teachers are.

“The teachers in this town love the kids in this town. My colleagues refuse to not go above and beyond for their schools and their students, no matter what. They are dishing out their own hard-earned money to help the kids in their classrooms and provide a good experience for them, even though they themselves haven’t gotten raises or step increases.”

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Hundreds of teachers turn out to sign contract cards and pull on their RedforEd.

Many students in East Haven, she says, live in low-income households, and teachers throughout the year enthusiastically participate in fundraisers to benefit those families—raising money to provide gift cards, for example, that families can use to buy groceries or other essentials.

Meanwhile, she adds, the town “is chopping away at teachers’ benefits.”

Investing in education

High school culinary arts teachers Joe Tartaglia and Daniel Trzcinski—in their second and tenth years, respectively—wore their new stickers and T-shirts with pride.

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Joe Tartaglia and Daniel Trzcinski blame anemic salaries and step freezes for driving East Haven teachers to higher-paying neighboring districts.

“We trust in our local association president and are here to unite with our colleagues,” Trzcinski said, noting that East Haven’s 260 teachers are among the lowest-paid in the area, making his district a “stepping stone” for educators who realize within a few years of starting here that they cannot afford to stay.

“We experience constant turnover because of this,” said Tartaglia, “and that’s not a good outcome for our students. There are too many breaks in continuity, always having to adjust to new teachers and new teaching styles.”

“Teachers are backing teachers today,” said Wintjen, “and we will be showing up at town council meetings and board of finance meetings in our RedforEd shirts to make sure we continue to be seen and our message is heard.” The next town meeting is scheduled for September 14.

EHEA’s T-shirts read, “East Haven Teachers Are Worth It,” and “Education Is An Investment, Not An Expense.”

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EHEA President Cynthia Wintjen works with CEA UniServ Rep Gloria Dimon to organize for a fair contract.

4 Comments
  1. Eileen lawler #

    I give my support 110 percent! Our investment in our teachers is our investment in our children and the future of our country. But talk is cheap. Although our teachers have unselfishly gone above and beyond the classroom, volunteering their time and donating their own funds, ( which few others would do) we should not expect that, yet we do. We need to respect our teachers as the professionals that they are. Teaching is their livelihood and all the “thanks” and awards in the world will not pay their bills. We need to make a commitment to them as they have done to the overall well being of all of our children. If we want to attract and hold onto our teachers, and in my opinion , one of the most important building blocks for our society, we need to PAY them! We can not afford to cut here. I am happy to pay my tax dollars when they go to our teachers! Sincerely from a Retired Nurse.

    August 28, 2019
  2. I say Bernie Sanders has the answer = beginning teachers’ starting pay should be $60,000 and/or student college loan should be paid for by government. I’m going to push for that as a 40 year retired teacher/administrator in CT/NY. And, I’m a registered Florida republican – just to vote in primaries etc.

    August 28, 2019
  3. Linda Rutledge #

    The teachers in this school system are the most dedicated and hard working teachers I know. They deserve THE very best

    August 27, 2019
  4. BeverlyGravino #

    Hi – just wanted to let those who may remember me as the secretary in the special education office that I am running for a spot on the board of education for the upcoming election. Hopefully I’ll be successful – anyone who remembers me knows I have always been supportive of our educators and I will continue supporting you when elected. Power of positive thinking! Have a great year and “keep the faith”.

    August 27, 2019

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