By Adam Swift
Contract negotiations between the School Committee and the districtâ€™s Education Support Professionals (ESP) have not broken down, according to Committee Chair Jennifer Powell.
At Monday nightâ€™s committee meeting, Powell said a mediator has been brought in to try to find a resolution with the paraprofessionals union (formally referred to as ESPs).
â€œWe have received numerous emails regarding the contract with members of the ESP bargaining unit that we have been working on diligently for several months, and I want to clarify an apparent misunderstanding that is prevalent in some of the communications we have received,â€ said Powell. â€œWe have not walked away from negotiations, and in fact, we remain extremely committed and dedicated to ensuring that those negotiations continue and that we are able to resolve our differences and come to an agreement that is of benefit to our entire community.â€
Powell said there have been many productive sessions with the bargaining unit and that there has been an apparent impasse over salary and additional compensation.
At a School Committee meeting earlier this month, a number of paraprofessionals and their supporters spoke in support of a new contract that would pay paraprofessionals a wage more in line with that offered in surrounding communities.
Kristen Reynolds, the president of the Winthrop Teachers Association, stated that the WTA stood in support of the paraprofessionals union.
â€œGiven the impasse, we have asked to involve a mediator in the process,â€ said Powell. â€œThis is a part of the negotiation process and this is how it is prescribed by the state. We are simply following a process to come to an expeditious agreement as soon as possible.â€
Mediation allows both parties to continue with the contract discussions with the goal of reaching an agreement, Powell said. She added that mediators have experience in labor matters and contracts and can help bring both sides together.
â€œThis process was previously followed during the negotiations in 2019 and 2022 in collective bargaining with the Winthrop School Committee and the Winthrop Teachers Association and we were able to come to a successful agreement at that time following the mediation,â€ said Powell. â€œWe are hopeful that this will have a similar result. We share the goal of reaching a fair and equitable contract as we value the dedication and the efforts of all WPS employees, including our ESPs.â€
In other business Monday night, the School Committee approved a three-year contract with the districtâ€™s cafeteria and food service workers. The contract runs through 2025 and sees a slight increase in salary during the first year, and 2 percent increases in both the second and third years of the contract, according to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard.