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Springfield schools, paraprofessionals' union, agree to a new contract

Springfield Public School paraprofessionals hold signs demanding higher wages during a rally outside City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Román
/
NEPM
Springfield Public School paraprofessionals hold signs demanding higher wages during a rally outside City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The union representing about 750 paraprofessionals working for the Springfield Public Schools and the city have reached a deal on a new contract. The employees had been working without one for nearly two years.

The situation had turned contentious in recent months and the contract dispute entered mediation. The union held a rally last month on the steps of city hall. That was followed by a press release from the school department, in which the district's chief negotiator Sean Sweeney, said the union needed to "stop spreading lies."

But, just a few weeks after that, a deal was in place.

Catherine Mastronardi, president of the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals, said the starting hourly wage for a new paraprofessional will go from $16.32 to $18 dollars She said the contract will not only help attract new employees, but will take care of the current ones, too.

"When you look at the economic challenges that we're all facing right now due to rising costs, it's really important for my folks to be able to have more money to be able to live on because right now, it's really hard," Mastronardi said.

In a statement, Springfield Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick said the deal was made possible through the support of the city and the school committee.

“We place a great deal of value on the tremendous service our paraprofessionals perform day in and day out and we hope our compensation package reflects that,” he said.

Employees will also be eligible for retroactive pay dating back to July, 2020.

The union also includes certified occupational therapists, physical therapists, licensed practicing nurses and health assistants in its bargaining unit. All positions will receive salary increases under the proposed contract.

The contract still needs to be ratified by the union and the Springfield School Committee. Mastronardi said she hopes the raises will be reflected in employee paychecks sometime in May.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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