SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – The South Hadley Education Association (SHEA) held a public forum Monday night to discuss the lack of a contract for educators in the district.

The event took place at the South Hadley Council On Aging on 45 Dayton St. for a community conversation about public education. Contract negotiations between the School Committee and the South Hadley Education Association have raised many issues regarding staffing, wages, and working conditions according to SHEA.

Registration and questions can be submitted online ahead of the forum.

“Our students have tremendous needs because of the impact of the pandemic on their lives and on our education system.  The district has an obligation to settle a contract that will ensure the success of our students. That means making sure we have adequate staff, minimal turnover, and that every educator—including paraprofessionals, is making a living wage,” said SHEA President Amy Foley.

Acting Superintendent Mark McLaughlin told 22News, that comments are limited during the negotiation process however, two statements were released recently from the School Committee “to address and in some cases correct a prevailing narrative that characterizes the SCs position as disrespectful to teachers and perhaps even harmful to students.”

Superintendent McLaughlin stated data provided by the School Committee demonstrates regionally consistent and competitive offers in support of fair, affordable, and sustainable compensation in this contract cycle.  

South Hadley School Committee Chairperson Alli Schlachter detailed the following information about where negotiations stand according to statement 2:

Unit A-Teachers & Specialists

  • The School Committee has proposed a four-year contract with increases of 2% in year one, 2% in year two, 2.25% in year three, and 2.5% in year four. Unit A members would receive a retroactive payment for year one and a retroactive payment going back to July 2022 for year two.
  • SHEA has proposed a four year contract with increases of 2% for year one, 3% for year two, 4% for year three, and 4% for year four.
  • In addition, they’ve proposed that in years 2, 3 and 4, top step employees receive an additional 2% above and beyond the increases shared above.
  • The financial impact of this proposal would result in the highest paid teachers in the district receiving a 17% increase over the final three years of the agreement.
  • The total increase over four years would be 19% for educators at the top step. Approximately 50% of our Unit A members are on the top step of the salary scale.
  • With SHEA’s most recent proposal, this would increase the total budget by $1.4 million over the duration of the contract just for this group of top step Unit A members.
  • As an example, these top step members in our district would make $76,885.56 after the retroactive 2% cost of living increase. With the 17% increase proposed over the last 3 years of their most recent proposal, they would then make $90,896.93.

Unit E-Paraeducators & Educational Therapy Assistants

  • The first year of the contract, which would be 2020-2021, Unit E members would receive a retroactive payment of 2% to the current scale, as proposed by the School Committee.
  • The School Committee has proposed a new scale to take effect July 1, 2022. This new scale would begin at $15.44 per hour, instead of $12.17 per hour as it currently stands. This would be a 24% increase.
  • For year 3 of the 3 year contract, we’ve proposed a 2% increase.
  • SHEA has proposed changes to the new scale, and a 4% increase in year 3 of the contract.

The district is currently under “Work to Rule” which calls on contracted employees to perform no more than the explicitly stated contract job responsibilities.