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Pittsfield School Officials OK Paraprofessional Contract

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An agreement has been reached between the district and unionized paraprofessional workers that ceases the use of a staffing agency to fill vacancies, increases pay, and withdraws litigation.

The School Committee last week approved a settlement agreement with the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees Local 1315 paraprofessional unit. While the vote was taken in open session, it was discussed during executive session.

"Last year, the Pittsfield Public Schools was unable to fill vacancies in some cases for students with special needs or classrooms, serving students with special needs, and in an effort to comply fully with the students' IEPs, the services of an outside agency to provide help for those classrooms was undertaken by the school department," Chair William Cameron said.

"The Federation's paraprofessional unit objected to that as basically subcontracting unit work and filed a prohibited practice charge with the Division of Labor Relations. There were then mediation sessions held between the Pittsfield Public Schools and specifically the negotiations and personnel subcommittee and the Federation and this agreement is an out is the outcome of a number of meetings that took place."

The two primary effects of the agreement are a $1.75 hourly pay increase for all members of the paraprofessional bargaining unit, a revised salary schedule for associate and bachelor's degree employees that is $3.25 greater than the current hourly rate, and an additional 75 cents an hour in the next school year.

It was pointed out that the $3.25 increase is not on top of the $1.75 increase.

The agreement also stipulates that the district will bargain for any future use of a staffing agency to fill bargaining unit positions.

With these changes, the union has agreed to withdraw its unfair labor practice charge against the district over the $1.5 million contract with a private staffing company to fill paraprofessional vacancies.

During hearings for the fiscal 2024 school budget, this was a hot topic.

"We are hopeful that with these revised salary schedules we will be able to attract employees to fill these important legally mandated positions providing services to students with special needs," Cameron said.

During the meeting, it was also announced that the district restructuring survey is being reopened. The School Building Needs Commission reconvened a year ago for a restructuring study of Pittsfield Public School's physical and educational structure.

The first run generated 416 parent and guardian responses, 385 responses from students in Grades 3-12, and 364 responses from teachers.

While reviewing the data, commission members said it was important for people who are not staff, students, parents, or guardians of PPS students and asked if it could be opened to the community.

Superintendent Joseph Curtis reported that a survey was added for residents and businesses.

"It's crucial that people from all backgrounds, all neighborhoods, all walks of life participate to the extent possible in this survey," Cameron said.

"There are major issues confronting the Pittsfield Public Schools looking ahead in future years and we need to hear from people in the city not just from people who work in the school system, although that's certainly important information, but we need to hear from people all over Pittsfield to let us know what they think our school district should look like."

Settlement Agreement Pittsf... by Brittany Polito

Tags: Pittsfield Public Schools,   union contract,   

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Pittsfield Native Killed In Air Force Crash

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher was recovered off the coast of Japan after the military aircraft he was on crashed Wednesday.
The Pittsfield Police Department released a statement noting that Galliher was a 2017 graduate of Taconic High School. 
The statement included that Galliher leaves behind his wife and 2-year-old and 6-week-old sons.
The Associated Press reported that on Nov. 29, an Air Force Osprey based in Japan crashed during a training mission off the country's southern coast. It was reported that the crash killed at least one of the eight crew members.
At this time, the status of the seven other airmen is unknown. The cause of the crash is also unknown. 
Taconic High School Principal Matthew Bishop said the school is in mourning after learning of Galliher's death.
"Jake was a proud member of the Class of 2017 and was known for his exemplary character, leadership qualities, and commitment to Taconic High School. He was an outstanding student, an integral member of our football program, and an active participant in our school community. Many staff members remember his kind, fun-loving spirit and how much he positively impacted our school," he wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon. "After graduation, Jake chose to serve our country with valor and dedication, joining the Air Force. The news of his tragic and untimely passing has left Taconic in mourning, as we reflect on the loss of a bright and promising individual who embodied the values that we hope to instill in all of our students."
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