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Cambridge School Committee Approves Union Contracts for Paraprofessionals, Family Liaisons

Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is located at 44 Linnean St. The Cambridge School Committee approved contracts with paraprofessionals and family liaisons during a special meeting on Friday.
Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is located at 44 Linnean St. The Cambridge School Committee approved contracts with paraprofessionals and family liaisons during a special meeting on Friday. By Frank S. Zhou
By Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge School Committee approved contracts with paraprofessionals and family liaisons at a special meeting on Friday, following months of protests from school support staff demanding pay increases.

The contract for paraprofessionals, who support teachers and provide specialized instruction to some students, includes a pay increase of more than 20 percent, while the contract for family liaisons, who bridge communication between the district and parents, includes increased transportation compensation. Both contracts take effect Sept. 1, 2024 and last for two years.

Friday’s vote follows protracted contract negotiations for three units represented by the Cambridge Education Association — paraprofessionals, clerks, and substitutes — culminating in a walkout from a School Committee meeting on June 4.

Members of the CEA’s Unit E, which represents paraprofessionals, voted overwhelmingly to ratify the tentative agreement in a process that closed on Monday. The units representing clerks and substitutes will vote on tentative agreements in mid-July. If approved, those agreements will go before the School Committee for approval later that month.

CEA President Dan Monahan praised the agreement at the special meeting — though he said it still fell short of paraprofessionals’ needs.

“While there were some real bumps in the road as we work to come to this tentative agreement, and while most of our paraprofessionals will still not be making a living wage, this is an incredible agreement,” he said.

He added that the negotiations were the “most productive negotiating I've ever participated in” with CPS, saying he felt there were “much more honest and open conversations” about the district’s rationale than in prior years.

School Committee Vice Chair Caroline M. Hunter described the agreement as “not only a good package financially, but a good package in terms of the commitment we’re making to our paraprofessionals.”

The pay raise for paraprofessionals is split across cost-of-living adjustments and “for time” increases, which compensate paraprofessionals for increased working hours under Cambridge’s new extended school day. The “for time” increase in the agreement is 12.5 percent in the contract’s first year, higher than the district’s previous offer but below the CEA’s original demands.

The cost-of-living adjustments — 3 percent in the first year and 3.5 percent in the second — were not a subject of the negotiations. Because of “reopener clauses” in many Cambridge workers’ contracts, if any individual unit negotiated a higher raise to base wages, contract negotiations for other school and city workers — from traffic supervisors to librarians — would reopen.

The contract also introduces several stipends, including $2,500 for bilingual paraprofessionals, $750 for paraprofessionals who receive verbal de-escalation and physical intervention training, and $1,000 for paraprofessionals who serve on a crisis response team. It also significantly increases the special education stipend and the “toileting stipend” for paraprofessionals who regularly assist children in the restroom.

It also adds midyear orientation and professional development opportunities for paraprofessionals, many of whom join CPS after the start of the academic year.

The contract for family liaisons — who are represented by a chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — adds stipends for liaisons who are bilingual or whose job regularly requires them to drive their personal motor vehicle. It also increases the allotted reimbursement for MBTA passes and adds a bike-sharing membership program.

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

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