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Schools support staff contract called a 'win-win'

April 26, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Public Schools' support workers will enter the summer with a new contract.

Representatives from Educational Support Personnel Local No. 1 and the Washington County Board of Education signed the three-year deal during the board's regular meeting Monday night.

Sheila Metzel, president of Educational Support Personnel Local No. 1, called the contract which goes into effect July 1, "a win-win for everyone."

Metzel said in an interview before the meeting the contract includes a raise of at least $1.04 an hour for all workers for next year.

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Workers would receive no raises in the contract's second year and a 2 percent increase in its third year, Metzel said.

According to Metzel, the contract would move all jobs up one classification, or grade. Grade one, a classification that includes jobs such as crossing guards, would move to the pay scale of grade two, and so on, allowing all 15 classifications to earn a level of pay a scale higher than previously contracted.

Linda Barkdoll, interim director of human resources, said the raises and new benefits offered by the contract will cost the county an additional $1.7 million.

That's close to the amount set aside as a placeholder for negotiations in the school system's proposed budget for next year, chief operating officer William Blum said.

"This year, we knew we were getting a lot of money from the state, so the county didn't have to do much in terms of maintenance of effort, so it was the perfect opportunity to do a win-win for everyone," Metzel said.

Metzel said during the meeting that ESP Local No. 1 is made up of about 900 people. Members work in support roles and include secretaries, custodians, instructional assistants, bus drivers and food service and maintenance workers, Metzel said.

According to Metzel, the contract provides for the county to re-assess and reclassify jobs, and upgrades can be made with board approval.

Metzel said the board and administrators also might re-assess some secretaries' positions to increase their hours, "because a lot of them are, when they are doing banking or whatever, literally, it's on their own time."

Half-time workers, who have had to pay full price for their insurance, now will be able to purchase coverage at half the cost, Metzel said.

Under the contract, workers who qualify will receive step increases as scheduled, Metzel said.

Metzel and Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said they were pleased by the results of contract negotiations.

Morgan commended the support staff.

"This year's ESP negotiations were the best I can think of," Morgan said.

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