Naperville 203 support staff plead for fair contract resolution

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Faced with contract talks that have lingered since April, support staff from throughout Naperville Unit District 203 are pleading for a fair resolution in ongoing negotiations.

Nearly two dozen members of the Naperville Education Support Professionals Association addressed the District 203 school board and Superintendent Dan Bridges at Monday’s board meeting in search of higher pay as both sides prepare for the next round of negotiations Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the staff association’s chief negotiator, Dan Goulson, an AV systems analyst at Naperville Central, the union is seeking a restructuring of the pay schedules for support staff members that reflects the value computer support associates, health technicians, campus supervisors, special education assistants and other positions bring to the district. Under the current contract, new hires receive between $9.89 and $18.16 an hour.

Speaker after speaker on Monday described how difficult it is to live on their current hourly rate. Goulson said some members require government assistance and work additional jobs to make up for their low pay.

“We are tired of being undervalued and underpaid,” said Naperville Central paraeducator Karen Carlson. “This treatment has gone on long enough. This can no longer continue. ‘Thank yous’ and ‘we appreciate all you do for us’ no longer soothe us.”

District 203 Board President Kristin Fitzgerald assured association members the district would work to produce a fair settlement for both sides.

“The board of education and the District 203 administration remain extremely thankful for the valued support personnel who are continuing to work under the terms of their previous contract,” Fitzgerald said.

“Both sides have exchanged proposals on all matters, including compensation, and are making strides toward an agreement that will provide NESPA members with a total compensation package that is both competitive with neighboring school districts and includes a fair rate of pay and benefits package,” she said.

The last district contract with the staff association, a three-year agreement that expired at the end of June, provided an average raise of about 4% for the approximately 600 NESPA members spread across 22 schools.

Goulson said a similar across-the-board pay raise is not acceptable because of the disparity in pay between different positions. The union is looking to restructure the pay schedule so every position starts at a fair rate at a time when the district is enjoying budget surpluses.

“We’re not trying to go after some sort of greedy cash grab at a time of opportunity,” Goulson said. “We’re just expressing the very real concerns that our members have.

“It’s time to let the board and community know why this is such an important fight for our members,” Goulson said.

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November 2, 2021 at 07:05PM

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