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Educators Walk Out of School Committee Meeting to Protest Support Staff Pay Amid Contract Talks

The Cambridge School Committee convenes for a March meeting. More than 40 Cambridge Education Association members staged a walkout of a meeting on Tuesday to demand higher pay for support staff.
The Cambridge School Committee convenes for a March meeting. More than 40 Cambridge Education Association members staged a walkout of a meeting on Tuesday to demand higher pay for support staff. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Darcy G Lin and Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 40 members of the Cambridge Education Association walked out of Tuesday’s School Committee meeting to protest for higher pay for Cambridge Public Schools clerks, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers.

The School Committee is currently negotiating a new contract for the three groups of employees with the CEA, the union representing educators at Cambridge Public Schools. Though the CEA and the School Committee ratified a new contract for teachers in December, the union remains unsatisfied with the terms the Committee has set out for education support professionals.

The CEA’s demands include increased salaries for paraprofessionals, a higher maximum pay scale for clerks, and eligibility for substitutes to receive benefits after one year instead of four.

As Tuesday’s meeting began, CEA members, wearing red t-shirts, filed into the public seating area, filling the seats. When Mayor E. Denise Simmons announced the start of the public comment period, the group silently stood up. Many members raised “Living Wage for ALL!” signs printed on letter-sized red paper.

“We do not allow signs in here,” Simmons said as the group stood. “We find it very disturbing to people that may want to have a different opinion.”

As she finished her sentence, the CEA members turned and walked out of the meeting room.

“Take your signs with you please,” Simmons said. “The recycling bin is outside the door.”

In order for the full CEA to vote on terms before the CPS school year ends on June 24, the School Committee must come to an agreement with CEA negotiators by Wednesday. The School Committee met in an executive session following the regular meeting to discuss the negotiations.

So far, CEA President Dan Monahan said, the CEA has already secured some victories from the negotiations, including stipends for multilingual paraprofessionals, stipends for toileting and diaper-changing, and expanded orientation programming for paraprofessionals who start working at CPS midyear.

“I hope we’re able to come to a tentative agreement, because what’s in this contract that we’re negotiating now is really good,” Monahan said. “But we need the cost-of-living because money’s the bottom line.”

“That’s why we’re still out fighting for it,” he added.

CPS spokesperson Lily Rivera declined to comment on the CEA’s demands.

“It would not be appropriate for the School Committee to provide comments or a position on specific contract negotiation issues,” she wrote.

Members and supporters of the CEA have been pushing for increased pay for paraprofessionals for months, including a rally outside the April 2 School Committee meeting where protesters blasted the fiscal year 2025 budget due to “inadequate” salaries for paraprofessionals. Despite calls, the School Committee passed the FY25 budget — valued at $268 million — during the meeting anyway.

Outside Tuesday’s meeting, some CEA members said they thought the School Committee was trying to push negotiations beyond the deadline, which would prevent any contract from being ratified until the start of the next school year.

“We’re afraid that the School Committee is stalling deliberately,” said Barbara Dorritie, a biology teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “And it’s also belittling and maltreating, essentially, some members of the union in contract negotiations — it’s disrespectful.”

Rivera wrote that the School Committee “has continued to bargain in good faith” and denied the allegations of stalling.

“We have ensured that financial packages are very lucrative and are working to address their concerns,” she added.

The contract for clerks is set to expire on June 30, while the contracts for paraprofessionals and substitutes are set to expire on August 31.

Under their current contracts, CPS paraprofessionals may earn between $26,214 and $56,588 for the year, depending on years of experience, education level, and daily hours worked. Clerks are paid at an hourly rate on a scale that ranges between $25.08 and $40.48 per hour. Substitute teachers are paid between $173.21 and $243.95 for each school day they work.

MIT’s living wage calculator estimates the living wage for a single adult in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton metropolitan statistical area at $30.04 an hour — or more than $62,000 a year.

During the meeting, School Committee members also unanimously approved a $65,000 contract with Van Pool Transportation to provide transportation for two out-of-district students.

Close to 90 Cambridge students with disabilities attend out-of-district schools in order to more closely meet their educational needs. While in-district buses provide real-time tracking for parents, transportation to out-of-district schools — mostly provided by NRT Bus — does not.

In early March, Cambridge parent John H. Summers filed a discrimination complaint against CPS with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, alleging that not providing bus tracking for parents of disabled students constituted disability-based discrimination.

At the meeting, Superintendent Victoria L. Greer — who was given notice of her termination by the School Committee late last month — said that she was “not sure” if Van Pool provided real-time tracking and “did not have an update” on providing tracking through NRT Bus.

School Committee member Richard Harding, Jr. said all transportation contracts should include tracking services.

“I think it should be the practice of the School Committee to not engage in any contracts without having the sophisticated — or not that sophisticated — tracking system as it relates to contracts like this,” he said.

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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