, Derry, New Hampshire

May 9, 2013

Voters to consider new teacher assistant contract

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Voters will have another chance to consider a new contract for the school district’s paraprofessional union.

At the polls on March 12, voters approved the school’s $81.9 million budget, but shot down a warrant article for a new collective bargaining agreement between the district and the AFSCME teachers assistants union.

Now, school officials have another plan to bring a contract before voters after entering negotiations again.

Details on a new assistant contract were presented at a public hearing May 1.

“Both sides have reached a tentative agreement,” superintendent Laura Nelson said.

The contract rejected by voters called for giving workers a 15-cent raise the first year, 15 cents the second year and 25 cents the third year.

The positions covered in this union include educational assistants, special education assistants, kindergarten aides, library, computer and reading assistnats.

The new three-year agreement, if approved by voters, would give members a 10-cent raise the first year, 15 cents the second year and 15 cents in the third. The district will see approximately $28,500 in savings with the changes.

Officials say this is a fair contract.

“I think it’s a good contract,” School Board member Neal Ochs said. “It will benefit everyone involved, including taxpayers. It’s a substantial savings.”

Ochs said the paraprofessionals and assistants deserve what this contract offers.

Money to support the new contract, if approved, will come out of the district’s existing budget, business administrator Jane Simard said, and will not add more financial burden to the taxpayers.

Linda Hawkins has worked as an educational assistant in the district for 26 years and also heads the paraprofessional union. She said she appreciated everyone’s hard work.

“I really appreciate that the district has come to us and with us to make some amendments to the contract to get passed,” she said. “You’ve given us a little bit of growth.”

School Board Chairman Brenda Willis said she was disappointed the contract wasn’t approved in March.

“It was disappointing it didn’t pass the first time,” she said, “but we hope people will realize how hard these people work.”

Residents will have another chance to hear details on the new contract at a deliberative session set for May 28 at 6 p.m. at West Running Brook Middle School gymnasium. A ballot vote will be held on June 25.