Greenfield School Committee approves paraprofessional contract

  • Greenfield School Committee Chair Adrienne Nunez speaks during a March meeting. On Wednesday, the School Committee ratified the contract for paraprofessionals. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 11/14/2019 10:07:45 PM
Modified: 11/14/2019 10:07:31 PM

GREENFIELD — Following a roughly two-hour-long executive session, the Greenfield School Committee voted to ratify the contract for paraprofessionals on Wednesday.

The estimated funding for the first year of the Unit C contracts is $480,000, according to School Committee Chair Adrienne Nunez.

“The majority of the committee was advocating for the (instructional assistants) throughout this process,” she said Wednesday. “This is the best thing for the IAs, the district and the well-being of the students.”

Susan Voss, union representative for Unit C who works at the Academy of Early Learning, said the instructional assistants “are thrilled.”

“This will help keep qualified people in our schools and attract more quality people to them,” Voss said Wednesday.

She added that she appreciated the support from the community when the group picketed outside of Greenfield High School on Nov. 5.

“There were members of the public (who) supported us and it means they understand what we do and its importance,” Voss said. “We appreciate that the School Committee ratified the contract as well.”

School Committee member Glenn Johnson motioned to ratify the contract, which was seconded by Nunez. The vote was approved by a majority, with Mayor William Martin offering the sole dissenting vote.

Martin said he voted against ratifying the contract for paraprofessionals because “the School Committee had several meetings where the alternatives available were discussed, and I was told the union wasn’t interested in talking.”

Martin said the next steps are for Superintendent Jordana Harper to put together a signed contract with a cost estimate for the three-year contract and send it to his office for review.

“Then the (Accounting and Finance) Department will provide some background and the financial order will be sent to the City Council,” he said.

The City Council needs to have two readings, with the first most likely to occur in December, Martin said.

“There are two options once the order is in front of the council: the order passes or it is rejected and the School Committee has to go back to the negotiating table,” he said. “The council need to be realists and look at the cost. We are also in negotiation with Unit A (teachers), which is going to be more than the paraprofessionals.”

There are also three other union contracts that will need to start negotiation in January because the contracts expire on June 30, 2020, according to the mayor’s office.

The Greenfield School Committee and the paraprofessionals had come to a tentative agreement, which the paraprofessionals ratified in August. However, the School Committee had not voted as a board in agreement with that contract until Wednesday.

According to Martin, when the contract stabilization fund began in 2012, its purpose was to “show all the collective bargaining units we would have funds available for negotiations.” Annually, money was added to the fund; however, at the close of the 2019 fiscal year, that process did not occur.

“We brought to the council the financial orders necessary to refill/replenish the contract stabilization fund,” Martin said. “There was no quorum at the (special City Council meeting) July 15 and that process didn’t happen. The result of that deadline period was that a recap will have to take place because we don’t have the end-of-the-year closing and we didn’t transfer any money that we knew we had into different accounts.”

The Greenfield School Committee approved a $23 million all-funds budget in October, including the city’s $19 million contribution and $400,000 appropriated from multiple revolving accounts to cover a budget gap. At the time, it was unclear how the paraprofessionals’ contract would be funded.

Martin said he has concerns that the practice of dipping into accounts such as the contract stabilization and general stabilization will deplete them.

“This idea of taking money out of general stabilization, the same thing would happen with that fund as contract stabilization,” Martin said. “The council needs to take a serious look at the revenues and see if the contracts are financially stable.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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