By Adam Swift
The school district is moving closer to a contract agreement with its Education Support Professionals (ESP), according to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard.
A final meeting between the ESP union and the district was scheduled for Wednesday after the Transcript went to press, according to Howard.
At Monday nightâ€™s School Committee meeting, Howard said it is her hope the district could come to a contract agreement with the paraprofessionals before going to mediation.
â€œWe had two more sessions with our ESPs in the past month, and we have another meeting scheduled for Wednesday,â€ Howard said. â€œProgress has been made, and it is our hope to be able to conclude before having to proceed to mediation.â€
The School Committee requested mediation for the contract talks from the Department of Education, and that request was approved.
However, Howard said the department requested that the district continue to hold negotiations until Jan. 30 in an effort to come to an agreement.
â€œIt is my hope at the next meeting we will be able to have an agreement,â€ said Howard. â€œIf not, I will update the committee and let you know if we are ready for mediation after the 30th.â€
Howard said it is also likely there will be an agreement on a new contract with the union representing school nurses by the end of the month.
ESPs and their supporters, including the Winthrop Teachers Association, have advocated for higher wages for the paraprofessionals, noting that their wages are lower than ESPs in neighboring districts.
Late last year, School Committee Chair Jennifer Powell stated that the committee was committed and dedicated to ensuring that negotiations continue and coming to an agreement that is of benefit to our entire community.
In other business, School Committee member Julie Barry said the subcommittee for the superintendent evaluation has met and mapped out the process and timeline for Howardâ€™s evaluation.
â€œWe are awaiting the superintendentâ€™s self assessment, and then upon receipt of that and other paperwork, I will distribute the evaluation materials to the rest of the committee and we will go from there,â€ said Barry.