The School Committee at Wednesday’s meeting ratified three-year contracts for the teachers and custodians unions and a one-year contract for the school physician.
Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said that using an interest-based model for negotiations proved successful and resulted in a more collaborative process.
The Hopkinton Teachers Association pact includes a 2.5 percent cost of living increase in the first year and a 2.75 percent increase in the second and third years.
The superintendent noted that stipends for teachers involved with extracurricular activities were boosted in order to be at market value. Increased time for parent conferences and time learning for students are among the other provisions.
The agreement with the Custodians Union Local 335 AFSCME Council 93 AFL/CIO includes cost of living increases of 2 percent for all three years as well as a 1.75 step increase.
Some of the other contract features include a 30-minute orientation for new members, changes to reimbursement for clothing to include outdoor gear and flexible time on eight-hour shifts in conjunction with the schools’ different starting times.
Also ratified was a one-year contract with school physician Dr. Stephanie Bodor for a total of $7,517.52.
School Committee Chair Nancy Cavanaugh praised all who were involved in the negotiations. She said it was very helpful during the process to hear more of the stories behind what the teachers were looking for and why.
Of the teachers group she said, “It felt like we were all working collaboratively to come to — ‘These are what the issues are and this is how we can solve them together.’ ”
Nancy Cavanaugh also acknowledged that each of the bargaining units have different priorities and the negotiations helped bring those to light.
School Committee Member Amanda Fargiano said it was a good idea to wait a year so the negotiations could be done in person.
School Committee Member Lya Batlle-Rafferty noted that although she wasn’t directly involved in the negotiations, she knew what concerns existed “every step of the way.” She said she appreciated the “calm” manner of the process and the fact that there were no surprises.
SEPAC seeks parent involvement
In other business, the committee heard a presentation by Jen Halliday, chair of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC).
She noted that she is the sole person on the elected board now, largely because of COVID-19 when interest by parents fizzled out.
Halliday said SEPAC works to establish goals and priorities so that all students, including those with disabilities, have better educational outcomes.
A supportive network of parents, she said, can give people a sense of community and make them feel like they are not alone in their experiences with their special education children.
She emphasized that the group does not have any authority to set policy but it can take concerns to the decision-makers for their consideration.
Hopkinton has 550 students with individualized education program (IEP) plans; 180 on 504 plans (that provide accommodations focusing on how students learn); and 30 students with out-of-district placements. Those numbers translate to 12.4 percent of the student body using these services.
Halliday said she had thoughts of disbanding SEPAC at the start of the pandemic but felt it was important to continue and give a voice to parents of children with disabilities who may feel isolated.
“I don’t want others to feel alone,” Halliday said.
To that end, on June 7 at 7 p.m. at a location to be determined, there will be a call for nominations to fill four board seats.
In addition to setting up a policy review committee and amending bylaws, Halliday said SEPAC hopes to host more activities in the future.
She said parents with children with disabilities can provide a “unique take,” adding, “There is so much we can do if we work together to make this a better place for everyone.”
Enrollment numbers reviewed
During her report, Superintendent Cavanaugh highlighted some enrollment numbers at the youngest grades.
As of April 6, there are 210 children registered for kindergarten and 33 students to come out of the pre-K program for a total of 243.
In addition, she said that pre-K enrollment usually is in the 80-81 range but there are 99 children enrolled with five more pending evaluations. As a result, there will be an additional classroom to accommodate the increase.