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New Jersey Teachers Return to Work

A WEEK after the school year began, negotiators in a strike-bound South Jersey school district have finally reached a tentative agreement, ending the last teacher strike in the state. After examining the tentative agreement, the 331 striking teachers and support staff members of the Deptford Education Association agreed late Friday night to return to their classrooms this morning.

Earlier Friday, the 572 teachers and support staff in the 4,800-pupil South Orange-Maplewood school district agreed to return to work today after negotiators reached a tentative agreement following a 13-hour bargining session.

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The two-year pact in Deptford, which has 3,300 students, was hammered out by negotiators for the school district and teachers over the course of 23 hours of talks.

The proposed contract calls for wage increases of 9.06 percent, or about $3,000, for teachers in the first year, and wage hikes of 8.86 percent, or about $3,200, in the second year of the contract, said Jim Crowley, a union spokesman.

Under the new contract, secretaries will receive salary increases of 8.8. percent in the first year and 8.87 percent in the second year, he said.

The contract also cuts out five steps in salary increases, meaning teachers will reach top pay faster, Mr. Crowley said.

``It's a contract I feel we can live with for the next two years,'' said Raymond Leister, the union's head negotiator.

The contract also calls for 15 minutes to be added to the elementary school day in the second year of the contract.

The school board had been seeking to add a half hour to the school day.

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The strike began Sept. 5 when teachers refused to report to work on the first day of the 1990-91 school year.

Unresolved are the penalties handed down against teachers and union officials in the two districts for ignoring back-to-work orders from county judges.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Irwin Kimmelman has sentenced 14 union leaders to 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

Gloucester County Superior Court Judge Robert Francis ordered the union and individual teachers to pay the school district's expenses for hiring substitutes and legal fees for staying off the job.

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