School staff sacrifices pay raises

BROOKLINE – The Brookline Education Support Staff Association, which represents 56 full- and part-time paraprofessionals, kitchen workers and custodians in the school district, has agreed to give back some approved pay increases for next year in an effort to save jobs and programs.

The decision comes in the wake of a similar move by the teachers union in March, said Amy Fessenden, co-president of the support staff union.

In March, teachers gave up $102,683 in contracted salary raises – a 2 percent cut, or roughly $2,000 per teacher – to save two teaching jobs and two programs.

Altogether, the support staff union is giving back roughly $38,000.

Voters at the March School District Meeting approved $60,645 to cover Cost of Living Adjustment and step raises for members of the BESSA.

The three-year support staff union contract must be approved as a warrant article every year.

By contrast, under a legal case that has come to be known as “sanbornization” because it was tested in Sanborn, the teachers’ union contract, once settled and approved by voters at the annual school district meeting, does not require annual voter approval.

Despite the contract protection, the teachers union agreed to give back some of its negotiated increases.

Fessenden said that the School Board asked BESSA to give up its raises, too.

The union agreed to return 2 percent of an approved 3.5 percent raise and forgo a 3 percent step raise in the next year, the final year of the three-year contract, she said.

Employees qualify for step raises only during their first ten years.

“This was to maintain the standard of education,” Fessenden said, adding that union members didn’t want to see colleagues lose jobs, the likely result of not cutting the raises.

Fessenden, a 10-year district employee who works as a reading and math paraprofessional, said this is the first time the support staff union has taken cuts and returned money to the town.