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BOE Denies Paraeducator Grievance On Wage Increases



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The Board of Education has denied a grievance filed by the Newtown Paraeducators Association that questioned the application of wage increases.

At a special meeting for a grievance hearing held at Newtown Municipal Center on November 9, Board of Education Chair Michelle Embree Ku explained that the evidentiary portion of the meeting was being held in a public session in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The school board later deliberated in a closed executive session before voting unanimously on the denial.

Shipman & Goodwin Attorney Richard Mills spoke for the district, while Neubert, Pepe & Monteith Attorney Lucas Rocklin represented the paraeducators union at the meeting.

As explained by Rocklin, the paraeducators union filed the grievance in the belief that the district has been incorrectly enforcing step wage increases. The current contract between the paraeducators union and the school district has been in place since July 2018 and runs through June 2022.

Discussion on the main disagreement centered around which years an employee would reach the next wage tier.

“The contract clearly provides that the contract salary schedule as covered by this agreement is set forth in Appendix A as part of the agreement,” Rocklin said, before reading highlights from the contract.

“There are four levels: Number one is zero through five; level two [is] six to ten years; level three is 11 to 15 years,” Rocklin said, while sharing some of the salary steps.

The meeting’s discussion then centered around when, depending on the school year and when an employee begins working, a paraeducator should receive the next step in the wage tier.

“It is our position that the board is doing it one year late,” said Rocklin.

Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue later spoke, sharing that she received the paraeducator union’s grievance on September 27. There was a meeting on October 6 to discuss the issue, and Dr Rodrigue responded with a letter on October 15.

Dr Rodrigue said she took a position that the union’s action came after the contractual deadline to file a grievance. According to Dr Rodrigue’s October 15 letter, the contract stipulated that right to file or pursue a grievance would be waived if not filed within “15 days of the event or condition in which the grievance is based.”

Reading from the contract, Dr Rodrigue added that advancement to the next salary tier would occur on July 1 “based on the applicable years of service if an employee will reach an anniversary date during a contract year that will advance the employee from one level to the next level.”

“The union’s position runs contrary to ... the provisions of the contract in which the contract has been consistently applied for the last several years,” said Dr Rodrigue.

Also in her letter, Rodrigue wrote, “Moreover, even if the union has not waived its right and had filed a grievance in a timely manner, the grievance would have no merit.”

She added that the district had followed the wage advancement per the contract. Also in the letter, Dr Rodrigue said the union’s claim was contrary to negotiating history and “the clear and consistent practice in which the contract was applied.”

Board of Education members asked questions before entering into a closed session for deliberations.

After attendees were called back into a second open session, Board of Education Vice Chair Dan Delia made a motion to deny the grievance filed by the paraeducators union “on the grounds set forth in the superintendent’s level two grievance response,” which was the October 15 letter.

Board of Education Secretary Dan Cruson Jr seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously. Board of Education member Debbie Leidlein was not present for the meeting.

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Seen between the shoulders of two Newtown Paraeducators Association representatives, Board of Education Chair Michelle Embree Ku and Vice Chair Dan Delia discuss the filed union grievance at the November 9 special meeting. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
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