Shrewsbury School Board approves contract with paraprofessionals

Shrewsbury Paraprofessional Association chair Noreen Christie speaks at a school committee meeting on October 6.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – After months of negotiations, the Shrewsbury Paraprofessional Association (SPA) has a new three-year successor contract.

The school committee unanimously ratified the agreement at its January 5 meeting.

“We have a lot of paraprofessionals who have served the district well for a long time, and we appreciate the win-win situation here with this contract,” Superintendent Joseph Sawyer said.

He called it a “fair”, “reasonable” and “thoughtful” deal and recommended its approval.

District and SPA discuss negotiation process

Under the agreement, the total expected compensation cost for all paraprofessionals in fiscal year 2022 is $7,521,143.

This figure includes an increase in the cost of living and other finance-related items.

School committee member Sandra Fryc served as the committee’s representative in the contract negotiation process with President Jon Wensky.

Fryc, Wensky and Sawyer thanked the SPA members who served on the bargaining team.

“Our goal from day one has always been to make sure we had money in the pockets of these employees,” Fryc said. “They’re integral to what we do as a school district, and we can’t do this job without them.”

She added that the district needed to attract and retain good staff, which she said had been their concern from the start.

The communication during their last meetings was “vital” to work through the negotiations and helped their team understand, Fryc said.

“I’m really happy that we got to meet and really have these discussions in this room,” Fryc said. “So, thank you very much for participating. We appreciate everything you do. You are, again, an integral part of what we do. I am very happy that we were able to reach an agreement. Thank you for all the time you spend on it after work.

SPA had expressed concerns during the process

The association worked under the terms of its old contract after it expired in August.

The SPA has publicly expressed concerns about the negotiation process, including the holding of a rally in front of the town hall and put up signs in the town.

The school committee had requested mediation earlier this year.

Last month, a mediator ruled that it was in the interests of the parties to continue negotiations rather than enter mediation, Wensky told the Community Advocate.

SPA President Noreen Christie thanked the school committee members.

“We had – I don’t mean a fun time – but a long time getting to know each other,” Christie said. “I just want you to know as well that in my discussions with my members, over 200 of them, getting to know them, getting to know their wants and needs, I just want you to know, and I know that you already know that you have a fantastic group of paraprofessionals working for you.

“We’re very, very happy that it all comes down to the great year we’ve been looking for,” she continued.

The Memorandum of Understanding sets out the details of the contract

According to Protocol of agreementthe new contract will run until August 2024.

A joint statement from the district and the SPA said the deal includes a “substantial” salary increase and brings Shrewsbury in line with the market to attract more applicants.

For special education and child-specific teaching assistants, the contract provides cost of living increases of 2.25% in the first year, 2.25% in the second, and 2.75% in the third year .

In the second year, paraprofessionals will also receive an increase of $4/hour to $5/hour in the form of an allowance which will be added to their base hourly rate when serving as a substitute teacher.

Additionally, Juneteenth will be a paid holiday in the third year of the contract if school is in session that day.

One of the conditions was that the union withdraw with prejudice a prohibited practice charge filed with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations within five days of full ratification of the agreement.

In the charge, the SPA alleged that during the negotiation, the District, through its agent, committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to negotiate.

“The employer refuses to negotiate the union’s proposals and has conditioned its participation in the bargaining process on insisting that the union will negotiate against its interests on the employer’s wage proposal and will not discuss other outstanding issues,” said the prosecution.

The SPA, in the prosecution, alleged that the district requested mediation despite the fact that there were active unresolved issues and the parties were not at an impasse. The SPA said the district was “attempting to use the mediation process to get the Department to clear or approve its refusal to negotiate.”


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