After more than two years of negotiations, splintered by COVID and other factors, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) administration and the paraprofessionals’ union have reached a tentative agreement on a package that ensures salary and holiday pay increases for all paraprofessionals.
Said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno: “I would like to first thank Superintendent Warwick, Labor Attorney Sean Sweeney, our negotiation team, and Paraprofessionals Union President Catherine Mastronardi for coming together, though contentious at times, for a contract agreement that is fair, appropriate and sustainable. This contract agreement respects our paraprofessionals and taxpayers. As a veteran of many union contract negotiations, I know there is always an ebb and flow to it. As I stated from the beginning and at our most recent School Committee meeting, our/my goal is always to get these issues resolved fairly ASAP. Thank you, paraprofessionals, for your continued and dedicated efforts to our students and teachers.”
Said Catherine Mastronardi, president of the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals (SFP), also known as the paraprofessionals’ union: “I am so pleased to have a successful conclusion to contract negotiations so that paraprofessionals can get back to what we do best, which is serving the students of Springfield Public Schools and making difference. I believe this contract serves the interest of paraprofessionals by increasing our beginning hourly rate, and I think it shows respect for our members and an overall understanding of the value that we bring to the school system.”
The proposed salary increase brings the hourly rate of starting paraprofessionals to $18 an hour and includes salary increases for all paraprofessionals based on the number of years they have worked in the district. Under the proposed four-year agreement, the salary increases will be made retroactive to July 2020.
Said Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick: “We place a great deal of value on the tremendous service our paraprofessionals perform day in and day out and we hope our compensation package reflects that.”
Warwick recognized the “generous financial support” included in the proposal is made possible by Sarno and members of the School Committee. “We simply would not have been able to make this offer without the resources they made available to us,” said Warwick.
In addition to the salary increase, the tentative agreement adds Juneteenth as a paid holiday. The proposed addition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday will bring the number of annual paid holidays for Springfield Public Schools’ paraprofessionals to 15, compared to three for many other districts.
Warwick said his team worked diligently to negotiate a contract that fairly represents the high value placed on the work of paraprofessionals, as well as the district’s overall priorities. He added that SPS paraprofessionals are amongst the highest paid throughout Western Massachusetts. “We have always been committed to negotiating a contract that will help us recruit and retain the best of the best,” said Warwick. “We feel the competitiveness of this contract allows us to achieve that goal.”
Said School Committee Vice-Chairman Christopher Collins: “The School Committee could not be more excited for the successful conclusion of these negotiations. A contract that demonstrates the high regard the School Committee holds for these valuable members of the educational team. The contract is good for the paraprofessionals and the department, but most importantly, the students who have very close relationships with these treasured members of the team.”
The Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals also includes certified occupational therapists, physical therapists, licensed practicing nurses and health assistants in its bargaining unit. All positions will receive salary increases under the proposed contract.
The Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals and School Committee are expected to vote on the tentative agreement in the coming weeks.