Naperville Education Support Professionals Association (NESPA) union members rallied yesterday ahead of the Naperville School District 203 board meeting amid negotiations for a new contract.
The majority of the group gathered in Downtown Naperville before marching down Washington Street near Washington Junior High School where the meeting was held. The union of around 600 members feel they are “undervalued, underpaid.” The main request of the union is more pay, and they may be heading in that direction.
“Move in the Right Direction”
“After months of negotiations, we are pleased that the district seems to finally understand our position and their most recent proposal made a move in the right direction,” said NESPA President Sharon Kurolenko. “Our members provide invaluable support to the district. It is time for the district to provide that same kind of support to their employees.”
“Negotiations with the Naperville Education Support Professionals Association, or NESPA, are continuing to progress 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 rated pay and benefits package, said District 203 Board President Kristin Fitzgerald.
At the Board Meeting
At the meeting, around 20 NESPA members voiced their concerns during public comment. Some said they feel they aren’t being paid a competitive wage and believe district schools are short staffed because of this. Naperville Central’s student ambassador also voiced concerns about not having enough substitute teachers.
“Obviously the solution to this problem is complex as the district must stay within a certain budget,” said NCHS student ambassador Uju Kim. “However from a student perspective, the calls for greater compensation appear to be largely justified and it must be addressed before this issue also impacts students.”
NESPA includes support staff like teacher assistants, special education assistants, campus supervisors, and health techs. The union and district have been in negotiations since May and are now in mediation. Staff has continued to work under an expired contract. Kuralanko said they hope to reach a tentative agreement before Christmas. The next mediation session is November 22.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.