SOMERVILLE, MA — After months of negotiation, the Somerville Educators Union (SEU) ratified two contracts Wednesday that will redefine student learning conditions and educator working conditions in the Somerville Public Schools.
According to the union, the contracts include changes such as smaller class sizes, new special education caseload caps, and a social worker in every school.
Educator benefits and compensation will also drastically improve, with all members, both birth and non-birth parents, now eligible for twelve weeks of paid parental leave, a first for any school district in the state. In addition, a paraprofessional’s starting salary will increase almost 32 percent in the first year of the contract to $35,000, which the SEU believes to be the highest in Massachusetts.
The Somerville School Committee has also committed to working with the city and SEU to develop an equitable enrollment policy, ensure school buildings are healthy, safe, and moving towards carbon neutrality, and pursue policies to prevent families with school age children from facing eviction.
“The success of these contracts reflects the power of an engaged and active membership,
backed by students, families, and the larger community,” SEU Vice President Megan Brady said in a statement. “The community was clear about what it looks like when a city values public education and public educators.”
According to Bargaining Team Member Dayshawn Simmons, the ratification of these contracts is only the beginning and a lot of work still needs to be done.
“While these are important first steps, we as a city, Commonwealth, and society, still chronically underfund public education,” Simmons said. “This contract is an important first step in Somerville. The whole Commonwealth will have a similar opportunity this November by voting yes on the Fair Share Amendment ballot question, which will raise funds for public schools and infrastructure by $2 billion each year by taxing income above $1 million an additional 4 percent.”
SEU President Rami Bridge said the SEU has undergone a massive transformation in the last three years and this success is a reflection of that.
“Our union has shown that when educators stand up and demand changes to an unsustainable system that pays poverty wages to paraprofessionals, fails to staff schools appropriately, and burns educators out, we can organize and create positive changes for ourselves, our schools, and our community,” Bridge said. “In just three years we have increased paraprofessional salaries in Somerville by almost 70 percent.”
“We are thrilled to have found our district and local elected leadership willing to meet our demands with compassion, understanding, and increased resources,” he continued. “This is a powerful first step in building a sustainable school system that values rather than exploits educators.”