School Committee makes concessions on paraprofessional pay

In a step toward progress in the ongoing contract negotiations between the Newton School Committee and the Newton Teachers Association, the School Committee is offering more money to paraprofessionals like teachers’ aids and classroom assistants at the bottom of their pay scale.

The committee agreed to drop the two bottom steps (levels of pay increase) for paraprofessionals, so that those employees would start at a higher entry pay than before, Vice Chair Kathleen Shields said Monday night.

“We had previously agreed to 1 ½ of those steps, and we now agree to the NTA’s proposal for a full two-step reduction,” Shields said. “What that means is that salaries for our incoming lowest-earning Unit C members [paraprofessionals] will increase, and that’s something we’re very pleased about.”

The committee also proposes a higher cost-of-living pay increase to those paraprofessionals at the low end of the pay scale instead of those at the top.

The top-earning paraprofessionals, Shields said, already make more money per hour than their counterparts in nearby communities.

“I’m pleased to hear about the focus on Unit C,“ School Committee member Rajeev Parlikar said. “I feel like there’s a significant discrepancy between those who are stepping and the top step.”

Chair Tamika Olszewski emphasized the importance of tentative agreements like this in ongoing negotiations.

“By reaching tentative agreements while putting forward package proposals that seek to capture the total costs of the proposals, that demonstrates that the School Committee is continuously operating under good faith to put forward the agreement that would be beneficial to both parties,” Olszewski said.

Other updates

Shields also addressed a rumor that the district was ending enrollment for children of Newton public school teachers.

“That is a program that the School Committee remains committed to,” she said.

On Dec. 1, a pay increase went into effect for teachers, as that’s the date for their step increase, averaging about 4 percent for this step. Teachers are trying to get the annual step date moved back to September.

Paraprofessionals saw their pay increase in On Sept. 1, where their step date remains.

Shields added that the district is making “corrections and improvements” to data it published regarding Weston paraprofessional salaries.

The next negotiations meeting between the School Committee and the NTA is set for Dec. 18.