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Lawrence school board to consider agreement raising PAL-CWA base hourly wage to $9.70

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The Lawrence school board on Monday will consider a tentative agreement with the classified staff union that would raise base salary for those employees from $9.43 to $9.70 per hour.

PAL-CWA (Personnel Association of Lawrence – Communications Workers of America) has been pushing for all members who make less than $15 per hour to get raises up to that amount. About 300 employees earn between $11 and $13 an hour, Hannah Allison-Natale, interim PAL-CWA president, said last month. 

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School board members earlier this year made about $6.41 million in budget cuts to balance a budget shortfall estimated between between $3.62 and $4.27 million, with the remainder to provide staff raises and rebuild depleted reserve funds. Board member Kelly Jones said during a negotiations meeting last month that the district had calculated PAL-CWA’s proposal at a cost of $11.7 million. 

“The negotiations teams have agreed to form a committee of PAL-CWA leadership and district administration to consider options to redesign the classified wage matrix,” according to the meeting agenda. “Any recommendations will be discussed during next year’s negotiations.”

Under the agreement, the total increase to the PAL-CWA compensation pool this year would be $806,336. That represents a a 2.863% increase, according to the agenda.

A living wage for a single adult with no children in Douglas County is $17.07, according to a calculator tool from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The base hourly wage in the agreement is 56.8% of that amount. The legal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

The tentative agreement adds language to ensure that staff members have at least one short break during the day “provided student needs are always covered and job responsibilities are completed in a timely manner.” 

This item is on the board’s consent agenda, meaning it will likely be approved without discussion along with a list of other items unless a member of the board or the superintendent asks to pull it for a separate discussion. 

In other business:

• Board manual changes: During a work session starting at 5 p.m. Monday, board members will review their Board Governance and Operations Manual. 

Some proposed changes include modifications to the board’s leadership team to include the past president and to specify duties of the past president; requiring board members to notify the district when they receive requests for comment from media; and amending policy to say that board members do not have a duty to respond to constituents’ communications “that contain vulgar language, or are of a harassing, threatening, or discriminatory nature.” 

Board members will review and discuss the changes ahead of a possible vote on July 11. 

• Student device fees: At the June 11 school board meeting, the board discussed the possibility of adding a student device fee. On Monday, the board will hear updates on student fee changes and continue that conversation. The board is not expected to take action on the issue until July.

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The board will hear a report on school curriculum and student academic performance in order to meet new legislative requirements. The report was not available as of Sunday afternoon.

• Two executive sessions: The board plans to hold two closed-door sessions: one 30-minute session at the beginning of the 6 p.m. regular meeting to discuss personnel matters, with possible action to follow, and a 20-minute session at the end to discuss employer-employee negotiations. 

The work session will begin at 5 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 27 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.

To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-422-6363. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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