By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
At last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting, several residents and members of the North Schools faculty assembled with one message—get these contracts settled.
Recently, the North Attleborough Federation of Teachers (NAFT) issued a statement for the School Committee to finalize the contracts for the paraprofessionals, food service workers, and office professionals, which have been working without one for over a year. The afternoon before the June 15 meeting, a large group wore red (the town’s color) and held signs supporting the faculty and asking for fair wages. Inside the committee’s meeting room, it was packed to standing room only.
Keri Childers has worked for the North School as a paraprofessional for over 20 years. She said her colleagues have worked hard to provide an academic year that was as close to normal as possible. Childers said that several have left the district, leading to a “brain drain” as their many years of experience go with them. She described the types of things they deal with—comforting children through hard days, getting spat on or pushed, or sitting with a child who has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of the risk to their own health.
“Please go home and think about what I have shared,” she said. “Let’s get settled on a contract and help the kids get back.”
School Committee Chair Ethan Hamilton had previously said that turnover in the school’s legal staff and administration was the cause of the delay in concluding the negotiations. He declined to comment on the requests made from the three groups, citing these ongoing discussions. No public statement regarding the contracts was issued during the meeting.
Wayne Booths—union chair chapter representative of the North Attleborough District Information Technology and Office Professional Teams—said the last two years have been a strain on the school staff. He said they have done the best they can to pivot and provide the education the students deserve, and that this dedicated team deserves a new contract and increased wages. Barbara McAuliffe, who worked at Roosevelt Elementary School and is now at the high school, said that the staff has gone above and beyond the expectations set for them. She said the staff deserves to make more than a teenager working part-time at a fast food restaurant.
“We were not able to work behind locked doors or protective glass,” she said.
Nicole Reminder, president of the NAFT and a sixth-grade inclusion teacher, was the last to speak and thanked those that had supported this effort. She said these contracts were part of attracting qualified professionals and provide children with the best education possible. Reminder added that North Attleborough would continue to lose staff as they went to other districts to get a better wage and support their own families.
“We’re not talking about line items on a budget,” she said. “We’re talking about people who day in and day out do the best not only to educate, but to feed, heal, and support the young people in our community.”