A new tentative contract agreement announced Friday could end contract negotiations between the Melrose School Committee and the Melrose Public Schools Unit of Union Paraprofessionals. The contract comes five months after the previous paraprofessional contract expired. It follows months of public demonstrations and negotiations as union educators and their supporters pressed for contract terms for paraprofessionals, including higher wages.
The Melrose School Committee and Education Association discussed their tentative agreement in a joint statement Friday outlining a new three-year contract. According to the announcement, paraprofessionals will see a significant increase in compensation under the deal due to new pay scales, cost-of-living adjustments, and market adjustments. If the parties finalize their agreement, there will also be a retroactive pay increase at the beginning of the school year.
Beyond pay, the school committee and the Melrose Education Association say their agreement will improve training and professional development opportunities while supporting the recruitment and retention of paraprofessional staff members. Hashed up in recent negotiating sessions, the contract now goes back to the Melrose School Committee and the Melrose Education Association, where it needs to be ratified and approved to go into effect.
The previous Melrose paraprofessional’s contract expired at the end of June when the district’s contract with its teachers expired. Teachers have rallied with paraprofessionals and other supporters at recent events, pushing for pay raises and more planning time as they move forward without a new contract. The School Committee discussed the negotiations in various statements, citing the need to balance contract provisions with larger district and city financial considerations.
Both the School Committee and the Melrose Education Association recently held talks in separate announcements, just over a week before their Friday announcement. Friday’s joint statement from the school committee and the Melrose Education Association did not address the current status of teacher contract negotiations. School Committee Chair Jen McAndrew and Melrose Education Association President Lisa Donovan both declined to comment Saturday when contacted about teacher contracts.
Melrose educators, who staged a work-to-rule protest earlier this year amid frustrations over contract negotiations, have continued to demonstrate in recent days, though they regularly gather outside Melrose schools with signs. Social media messages from the Melrose Education Association surrounding the demonstrations continue to note contract demands, including salary and prep time requests.