Progress stalls on paraprofessional contract negotiations

Evan Marohn

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Graphic by Jason Altshuler 

Since the tentative agreement was reached for Unit A educators between the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) and the Brookline School Committee (BSC) on Sept. 21, negotiations regarding the other two units have reached a stalemate. Little progress has been made on the remaining contracts for paraprofessionals and administrators.

According to BEU president Jessica Wender-Shubow, paraprofessionals in Brookline earn a poverty wage that is significantly less than paraprofessionals in Newton and Boston. Wender-Shubow said that this results in a high turnover rate for Brookline paraprofessionals.

The contract for paraprofessionals is currently in a state of impasse in which there is little to no movement between the BEU and BSC in negotiations. According to BSC Chair Susan Wolf Ditkoff, the paraprofessional contract was previously in mediated negotiations, but even those were unable to successfully strike an agreement.

“A professional mediator was agreed upon by both sides and hired to help with the process,” Ditkoff said. “That mediator declared the mediation failed and sent the parties to fact-finding, the stage that we’re in right now.”

According to Wender-Shubow, fact-finding involves an official from the state government and is the next step in the attempt to end the impasse.

“Somebody comes in from the Department of Labor Relations of the state and listens to the proposal of each of the sides. You make your case, and they offer their professional opinion of what’s fair,” Wender-Shubow said. “The idea is that the two sides would then say, ‘Alright, you’ve convinced us. We’ll go with what you recommend.’ But no one is required to go with what they recommend.”

The Unit B contract, which deals with administrators and curriculum coordinators, is still being actively negotiated. The negotiation subcommittee of the BSC last met to discuss the contracts on Thursday, Jan. 5. The BEU will hold their next meeting on the subject on Jan. 17.

According to Ditkoff, teacher contracts are a high priority for the BSC, and some BSC members have direct connections to the BEU.

“We have former BEU members on the School Committee,” Ditkoff said. “[BSC member] Barbara Scotto was a teacher for 25 years at Driscoll, and she was a BEU member, so she brings an incredibly important perspective. We have three other School Committee members who were either teachers or aides or professors in a higher education context. I think all of us are disappointed that this is where we are.”

Contract negotiations are also likely to be affected by the resignation of BSC negotiation subcommittee chair Rebecca Stone. According to Ditkoff, Stone had 11 years of experience on the committee and was chair of the “Yes for Brookline” override campaign in 2015. Ditkoff said that Stone resigned for family health reasons and that the negotiation subcommittee will now be chaired by Michael Glover.

“[Glover] has been on the negotiation subcommittee with [Stone] for a year and a half,” Ditkoff said. “He is an attorney who has experience negotiating contracts in government and higher education.”

Wender-Shubow said that she hopes Glover’s new position will be an improvement in contract negotiations.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be any sign of movement because he has that role,” Wender-Shubow said. “I hope he steps in and says he wants this to be resolved.”

Note: a town-wide meeting to discuss educational justice will be held at All Saints Parish on Feb. 9. The meeting will be a public discussion and will be open to students.

Contributed by Jessica Wender-Shubow