On Tuesday, the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) district and the educational assistants’ union (EAU) agreed to a tentative contract proposal under which the district would pay $2.86 million more in wages annually by the 2015-2016 school year, if all other unions agreed to the terms that the EAU informally accepted.
The wage adjustments per school year include a one percent increase in the current school year, a 2.5 percent increase in the 2014-2015 school year, and a three percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year. If all district unions settle for the same wage increases, the district would spend an additional $260,000 the first year, $1.1 million the second year, and $2.86 million the third year. Along with the wage increases, an additional step for the most senior education assistants would include a 45 cent per hour increase in lieu of $500 in longevity pay. Previously, the district offered a 55 cent per hour pay step. Additionally, the district included a credential wage increase of an additional 40 cents per hour for educational assistants who earn the paraprofessional credential from the Minnesota Board of Teaching.
The original negotiation proposal from the EAU asked for a salary increase of 2.75 percent in the first year and a 3.5 percent increase in both the second and third years. The district’s counteroffer to that original proposal was a one percent increase in salaries for the 2013-2014 school year, followed by a two percent increase in the 2014-2015 school year and a three percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year, which included an additional 55 cent per hour pay step for educational assistants with the most seniority. The EAU then proposed a counteroffer to the district with a salary increase of two percent in the 2013-2014 school year, an increase of three percent in the 2014-2015 school year, and a three percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year, before agreeing to this most recent proposal set forth by the WAPS district.
“I am excited,” Pat Blaisdell, WAPS human resources director, said as she shook hands with Jeff Hyma, of the state teachers union Education Minnesota, who assisted in the EAU negotiation.
“So am I,” Hyma reiterated.
The meeting on Tuesday was the district’s second counteroffer to the EAU, and some of the terms agreed to upon by both parties included:
- Three paid personal days per year.
- Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year emergency closings, educational assistants will work an additional two extra days, which will be counted as emergency make-up hours for the first 13 emergency closing hours of the year. After the 13 hours, educational assistants may use sick leave to receive pay for a day in which schools were closed for an emergency.
- Union representatives will be credited with two non-cumulative leave days without the loss of pay. The days can either be used in full or as half days.
Educational assistants extend invitation to the board
After the handshakes and pleasantries, Jan Holtet and her fellow educational assistants urged the two board members present at the negotiations meeting, Steve Schild and Jay Kohner, to follow them around for a day.
“I would like to extend an invitation to the School Board to follow us around for a day or a day and a half,” Holtet proposed. “You will have a whole different perspective [on what we do]. A history teacher is a history teacher, it’s pretty cut and dry, but for us...”
Holtet and her colleagues suggested that Schild and Kohner present the idea to the rest of the board, adding that an educational assistant’s role was more complex than what board members might think.
The contract proposal will be presented at the next WAPS Board meeting on Thursday, February 6. If the board signs off on the proposal, the contract will be ratified the following Tuesday, February 10.
The district's largest union — representing teachers — has formally met once with the negotiation committee.