12/7/22 UPDATE: The Wellesley School Committee today notified WPS families in an email that school contract negotiations with the Wellesley Educators Association have stalled to such an extent that the SC is filing with the State for mediation. Here’s the email:
After months of extensive good faith negotiations in which progress was made to improve working conditions, pay, and benefits for our educators, negotiators for the Wellesley School Committee today notified the Wellesley Educators Association of our intent to file for mediation. Although the parties have reached agreement on a significant number of items, we have been unable to make further progress on the remaining items. As such, we believe negotiations are at an impasse and are therefore moving forward to mediation, the next step in the bargaining process as laid out in state law. The decision to declare an impasse and petition the Department of Labor Relations for mediation was taken in an effort to keep the negotiations process moving forward.
We want to assure all members of our community that the Wellesley School Committee views mediation as an important step forward in an effort to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Since parties have not been able to reach agreement at the bargaining table, the best way to proceed is to mediate the unresolved items in good faith with the WEA and a neutral third party.
The Wellesley School Committee and District leaders would like to reiterate that we deeply value the steadfast and ongoing dedication of our teachers and staff. We know that they work every day to deliver an excellent education to all Wellesley students at all grade levels. We want to continue to assure the community that reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable to our educators and staff while working within the budget parameters set by the Town, Select Board, and Town Meeting is our top priority.
Given our shared goal of providing the best education possible to all students in our district, we have confidence that we can reach agreement with the WEA in a mutually supportive and respectful manner.
Members of the Wellesley Educators Association (WEA) capped off the week at schools across the district with an end-of-day walk-out on Friday, Dec. 2. The demonstration—during which educators, many wearing bright-red t-shirts identifying them as “proud union members”—took place soon after classes were dismissed for the day. It’s the second time in as many weeks that the WEA has organized a show of unity amid contract negotiations that have left teachers, paraprofessionals, librarians, nurses, secretaries, and many others working without a contract since July 1, 2022.
At issue for educators is what they call “Fair Five Now” demands that encompass issues such as parental leave; due process during individual contract disputes; wages, specifically a demand that Educational Support Professionals (sometimes referred to as paraprofessionals or classroom assistants) receive 6% annual increases; prep time for elementary school teachers; and specialists’ scheduling.
Contract discussion is on the Dec. 6, 6:30pm, School Committee agenda under executive session, meaning the public will not be allowed to listen to that part of the meeting. The School Committee meeting is online only, and may be watched on Wellesley Public Media.
The WEA union and the School Committee next sit down at the bargaining table to try to come to an agreement on Wednesday., Dec. 7.
Kyle Gekopi, president of the 713-member WEA union, in an email said, “We expect counterproposals on many of our ‘Fair Five’ points. These proposals have all been advanced multiple times by the WEA, but the Committee has stated they have ‘no interest’ in countering these proposals. We are hopeful that our continued conversations with the community will generate the Committee’s interest in these items.”
Linda Chow, School Committee vice chair and a member of the bargaining team, said in an email, “The School Committee is grateful for all of our educators and is committed to continuing to work with the WEA to reach a fair and equitable settlement as soon as possible. We can’t stress enough that we feel a deep responsibility for supporting all our students and educators while working within the budget parameters set by the Town, Town Meeting, and Select Board. We will continue to work through the bargaining process to get to this end goal.”