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Pittsfield School Officials OK Paraprofessional Contract
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
11:59AM / Tuesday, September 19, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An agreement has been reached between the district and unionized paraprofessional workers that ceases the use of a staffing agency to fill vacancies, increases pay, and withdraws litigation.

The School Committee last week approved a settlement agreement with the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees Local 1315 paraprofessional unit. While the vote was taken in open session, it was discussed during executive session.

"Last year, the Pittsfield Public Schools was unable to fill vacancies in some cases for students with special needs or classrooms, serving students with special needs, and in an effort to comply fully with the students' IEPs, the services of an outside agency to provide help for those classrooms was undertaken by the school department," Chair William Cameron said.

"The Federation's paraprofessional unit objected to that as basically subcontracting unit work and filed a prohibited practice charge with the Division of Labor Relations. There were then mediation sessions held between the Pittsfield Public Schools and specifically the negotiations and personnel subcommittee and the Federation and this agreement is an out is the outcome of a number of meetings that took place."

The two primary effects of the agreement are a $1.75 hourly pay increase for all members of the paraprofessional bargaining unit, a revised salary schedule for associate and bachelor's degree employees that is $3.25 greater than the current hourly rate, and an additional 75 cents an hour in the next school year.

It was pointed out that the $3.25 increase is not on top of the $1.75 increase.

The agreement also stipulates that the district will bargain for any future use of a staffing agency to fill bargaining unit positions.

With these changes, the union has agreed to withdraw its unfair labor practice charge against the district over the $1.5 million contract with a private staffing company to fill paraprofessional vacancies.

During hearings for the fiscal 2024 school budget, this was a hot topic.

"We are hopeful that with these revised salary schedules we will be able to attract employees to fill these important legally mandated positions providing services to students with special needs," Cameron said.

During the meeting, it was also announced that the district restructuring survey is being reopened. The School Building Needs Commission reconvened a year ago for a restructuring study of Pittsfield Public School's physical and educational structure.

The first run generated 416 parent and guardian responses, 385 responses from students in Grades 3-12, and 364 responses from teachers.

While reviewing the data, commission members said it was important for people who are not staff, students, parents, or guardians of PPS students and asked if it could be opened to the community.

Superintendent Joseph Curtis reported that a survey was added for residents and businesses.

"It's crucial that people from all backgrounds, all neighborhoods, all walks of life participate to the extent possible in this survey," Cameron said.

"There are major issues confronting the Pittsfield Public Schools looking ahead in future years and we need to hear from people in the city not just from people who work in the school system, although that's certainly important information, but we need to hear from people all over Pittsfield to let us know what they think our school district should look like."

Settlement Agreement Pittsf... by Brittany Polito

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