Revised Contract for ‘Paras’ Set for School Election

A sparse crowd attended the public hearing for the Derry Cooperative School District’s paraprofessionals’ contract. The hearing took place Wednesday, May 1, at West Running Brook Middle School. The educational assistants for Derry’s seven Kindergarten-Grade 8 schools and the School Board went back to the bargaining table after voters rejected the paraprofessionals’ original contract in the March 12 voting.

The original contract called for an increase totaling $66,647 in 2013-14, $51,478 in 2014-15, and $71,218 in 2015-16. It was defeated at the polls, 801 in favor to 1,153 opposed. The revised contract asks for wage and benefit increases totaling $57,758.82 in the first year of the contract, $51,973.44 in the second year and $52,706.92 in the third.

Superintendent Laura Nelson said the educational assistants’ association and the board reached a tentative agreement April 17. Kathleen Kennedy, human resources director for the district, said the original contract raised the assistants’ hourly rate by 15 cents per hour in the first year; the proposed contract raises it by 10 cents per hour. The second-year raise stayed at 15 cents per hour, and the third year was reduced from a 25 cent per hour raise to 15 cents.

The new contract represents a $28,500 savings from the previous one, Kennedy said.
“This is an excellent contract,” board member Neal Ochs said. “It benefits everyone involved, including the taxpayers. I thought the original contract was reasonable, but this one is even more so.”

Linda Hopkins, chairman of the paraprofessionals’ union, said, “I really appreciate how the district came to us, worked with us, made some amendments.” Hopkins said the negotiators “worked hard to be reasonable.” The proposed contract will “give us a little growth,” she said, and help the district retain “talented people from all walks of life.”

Business Administrator Jane Simard noted that the first year of the contract will not be an additional appropriation, but will be taken out of the 2013-14 approved budget. A deliberative session on the contract will be held at the May 28 School Board meeting, with voting on June 25.