GCSD aids and monitors get raises

The Enterprise —  Melissa Hale-Spencer

Lauded for her “amazing work ethic,” Mee Chun Yu, right, a hall monitor at Guilderland High School who also serves as a translator for new families from China, was one of eight district employees honored by the school board Tuesday night. Applauding her is the board’s president, Barbara Fraterrigo. Later at Tuesday’s meeting, the board ratified a two-year contract for the district’s 48 aids and monitors.

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

“After so many years, we call it a tradition,” says Lin Severance, Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for human resources, hosting Tuesday night’s 36th Annual Employee Recognition Ceremony. Wednesday, she discussed terms of the two-year contract for aids and monitors and, praising their work, said, “The biggest thing at stake was salary.”

GUILDERLAND — The vote was unanimous from both the school board and the aids and monitors for their new contract, which offers significant raises to a group that was paid least in the Suburban Council.

“Everyone was happy,” said the unit’s president, Linda Carlino, a monitor at Guilderland High School. “We feel like right now we’ve received a good raise.”

The two-year pact runs from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015. The unit requested a two-year contract. Carlino told The Enterprise there was a “possibility” the unit may merge in the future with custodian, kitchen, and maintenance workers.

“The negotiations have been absolutely wonderful,” said Lin Severance who represented the district along with Neil Sanders. Both are assistant superintendents — Severance for human resources and Sanders for business.

Michael Rowan of New York State United Teachers, with which the unit is affiliated, negotiated for the aids and monitors. Agreement was reached in just three sessions, and the school board ratified the contract on Tuesday night.

“We really appreciate the work these folks do,” said the school board’s president, Barbara Fraterrigo, after the 9-to-0 vote. “They’re just extraordinary people.”

The unit has 48 members who perform a variety of duties with work schedules that range from, for example, a two-hour-a-day cafeteria monitor to a seven-hour-a-day security monitor.

“Years and years ago, we had many specific titles like classroom aids or hall monitors,” Severance told The Enterprise on Wednesday. As of the last contract, though, said Severance, “We changed all that to the title aids/monitor with just one seniority list.”

This time around, Severance said, “The biggest thing at stake was salary.” The unit was focused on increasing pay, she said, noting they were the lowest paid in the Suburban Council.

Asked if this made it difficult for Guilderland to hire aids and monitors, Severance said, “Surprisingly not…Some folks in the community have only a few hours a day and this fits their schedule.” Severance noted this might apply to a parent with a child at school who wants to be home when the child is or to someone transitioning into a career.

The aids and monitors work on a 15-step schedule, increasing 40 cents every step, typically progressing up one step each year. Last year, under the old contract, an entry-level aid on the first step earned $8.05 an hour.

Under the new contract, as of Sept. 1, that aid would automatically progress up a step and earn $8.45, adding 40 cents to the hourly wage. Then, on Feb. 1 of the same school year, another 40 cents would be added. The same formula applies in the second year of the contract, with the 40-cent increases in both September and February, so that, at the end of the two years, that entry-level aid will earn $9.65 an hour.

About half the aids and monitors, Severance estimates, are “off-step,” having worked for the district for more than 15 years. They will get 2.5-percent raises in September and again in February of both years of the contract. A worker who is at the top of the scale will start the contract at $15.72 per hour and will, at the end of the two years, earn $17.34 per hour.

Negotiating with some units, the district has pushed for employees to pay for more of their health-insurance costs. Most Guilderland employees pay 20 percent while the district pays the remaining 80 percent.

“We didn’t ask this group about health insurance,” said Severance, noting the aids and monitors will continue to pay 20 percent.

“They are one of the lowest paid groups and health insurance is expensive enough,” said Severance. “Some of these folks are working truly just for the health insurance. It’s so important for a family to have.”

Carlino said that, in the future, the unit hopes to get health-insurance coverage after retirement similar to that of other units, in which retirees pay 20 percent and the district pays 80 percent.

The district contributes about $2,100 annually towards health insurance for the aids and monitors, Severance said. Carlino termed this “very, very small” in light of today’s health-insurance costs.

“We’d like to be treated like everyone else,” she said.

Severance concluded of the “quick” negotiations, “They were really after compensation. We and the board of education understood that.”

Asked how the aids and monitors’ pay would stack up with the rest of the Suburban Council after the end of the two-year contract, Severance said, “Still below the median.” While, she said, they will no longer be the lowest paid, she concluded, “We still have a little way to go.”

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