Colebrook’s thirty paraprofessionals, custodians, maintenance workers, secretaries and administrative assistants recently voted to organize and affiliate with NEA-New Hampshire, joining the majority of school support personnel in the North Country.
Support staff began their effort this fall, talking with their colleagues and circulating petition cards to call for an election to organize with NEA-NH. Leaders collected more than the required number of signatures needed for an election, so the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) held the election November 19 in the Colebrook School library. Staff voters approved the union by an overwhelming margin.
“We hope that forming a union will give us access to more educational training and support to provide the best services to our students and the school community,” said Lucie Daley, Colebrook Academy and Elementary School paraprofessional. “Improving the school environment will also help attract and retain qualified support staff to provide consistency for the students,” continued Daley.
The Colebrook support staff hopes that through communication and education, more people will better understand the crucial role Education Support Professionals (ESP) play in the lives of their children.
“ESP are critical members of the education workforce and ensure student success from pre-school through college. They have a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion and play critical roles in the school community,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH President. “Our students’ success is built on the hard work performed by all education employees, regardless of their job description or title. NEA-NH believes that our ESP members have, for too long, been underappreciated for the work they do for their students and communities.”
“We’re pleased to be a part of an organization that gives us a voice in our working conditions, and they will work hard to help everyone see the importance and value of our professional support staff,” said Daley.
Colebrook teachers have been unionized since 1976.
Recently, NEA-NH members were successful in ensuring Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA, benefits for ESP across the state, working with state officials to lower the threshold to receive FMLA leave.
“Prior to NEA-NH’s involvement, to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked 1250 hours in the preceding 12 months,” said Tuttle. “NEA-NH proposed setting the eligibility level for hourly school employees at 900 hours in the previous 12 months. This would allow employees working 25 hours a week access to this important benefit.”