In June 2022, the Southington BOE Paraeducators/ABA’s/EL Tutors bargaining unit, which consists of approximately 300 members, voted by an overwhelming majority to approve the Tentative Agreement for a successor contract.
As is the case in practically every negotiation, the bargaining unit communicated to UPSEU that higher than average wage increases, and minimal health insurance increases were of the utmost importance to them. However, at the top of the priority list during this round of negotiations was to secure additional compensation for our members assigned to especially high risk environments who are working regularly with students who exhibit increasingly aggressive tendencies due to escalated behavioral issues. The Southington School District offers a continuum of Special Education services to meet the individual needs of students, ages 3 to 21, identified as needing special education. There are approximately eight specialized Special Education Programs (LAUNCH, SPACE, TEAM, CLP, LIDS, EASE, ACHIEVE, & STELLAR) within the District, each of which has a team consisting of Paraeducators and ABA’s. Due to the nature of these programs, there are a significant number of students with escalated behavioral issues that our Paraeducators and ABA’s are assigned to work with on a daily basis.
UPSEU Regional Director, Matt Geer, who spearheaded these negotiations on behalf of the bargaining unit, was meticulous and unrelenting in addressing the unit’s top priority items throughout negotiations. Through the concerted efforts of UPSEU and our elected negotiating committee consisting of Deborah Stevens (Unit President), Suzanne Topper (Unit Vice-President), Dawn Dickau (Unit Secretary), Lydia Holbrook, Spencer Richards, Jeremie Butlien, Mary Anne O’Brien, Andrea Marston and Lisa Thom-Dunphy, we were successful in reaching a favorable Tentative Agreement which addressed each of those respective items. The negotiating committee’s efforts, passion, time and dedication were an integral part of this process as they displayed a remarkable level of advocacy during the course of negotiations.
It is noteworthy that the new contract includes above market wage increases in each year of the agreement, while providing step movement in the first and second year of the agreement. UPSEU was successful in eliminating the first two steps of the wage grid, which increases the starting rate of pay and compresses the grid to allow the members to reach top step quicker. As a result of UPSEU’s aggressive advocacy during negotiations, the new contract also provides an hourly rate adjustment for all hours worked and paid time off for each of the approximately 80 members working within one of the eight specialized Special Education Programs.
Additional contractual improvements include significant improvement in the teacher substitute coverage language and compensation, minimal health insurance increases, ability to get credit for unused personal days in the form of an additional family illness day, enhanced professional development language, paid prep time for the EL Tutors, an increase in the hygiene stipend amount, and a District issued laptop or Chromebook for each unit officer and steward to conduct union business.
The Unit President, Deborah Stevens, exclaimed, “Triumphant! Our membership secured another successful contract under the leadership of Matt Geer and the negotiation team. Even in this tough economy, with the guidance from UPSEU, we were able to obtain above average GWI's, and additional contract language that provides more stipend money than ever before. We were also able to keep insurance costs to a minimum. In my opinion, this is our best contract in my 10-year tenure as Unit President of the bargaining unit!”
Additionally, the Unit Vice-President, Sue Topper had the following to say, “A great amount of effort and teamwork from Mr. Geer and the Southington Unit 50 Paraeducators, ABA's, and EL Tutors negotiating team went into securing an impressive new 3-year contract. Under his leadership, we were able to increase wages, add stipends to specialized student support groups and to maintain insurance deductibles to a minimal cost. This newly negotiated contract benefits all our members. An outstanding job!”
“As a result of UPSEU and the elected negotiating committee securing additional compensation for our members working within the specialized Special Education Programs, the contract finally provides the recognition that each of them has so rightfully deserved for years. However, there still remain other members who work with students that have escalated behavioral needs, who are equally deserving of this additional compensation. UPSEU will continue to advocate on their behalf until those members are properly compensated, as well. It is clear that this round of negotiations yielded an extremely favorable result for our members, but as always, UPSEU will never quit advocating on behalf of our hardworking and dedicated members,” commented Mr. Geer.