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Deer Lakes, support staff still at impasse

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By R.A. Monti
Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Deer Lakes School District still doesn't have a contract with its support professionals and their union.

The district and the Deer Lakes Education Support Professionals Association haven't been able to agree on terms of a new contract for more than a year and a half.

The support professionals are comprised of 47 secretaries, crossing guards, hall monitors, nurses, and classroom and one-on-one paraprofessionals.

According to Butch Santicola, spokesman for the association, the district hasn't responded to the union's latest contract proposal in more than a week.

“The majority of these employees make between $14 and $15 per hour,” Santicola said. “They are the lowest- paid employees in the district.

“Their work is a vital part of the school district,” he said. “Their work helps the school district to run efficiently, therefore impacting the offerings to the students.”

Lisa Merlo, Deer Lakes School Board president, said she wants to come to a resolution with the union, but doesn't think their wage increase demands are fair.

“The wage increases aren't in line with any wage increase that any employee, inside the district or out, is getting right now,” Merlo, said. “When we negotiate contracts the one thing we look at is where we stand financially.

“We're hurting like a lot of school districts in this state,” she said. “We're looking for a fair and reasonable solution that helps both sides, and doesn't hurt the students.”

Neither Merlo nor Santicola would divulge the amount of the raise the union is asking for.

Santicola hoped that the school district will allow a third party to enter the negotiations, and said if an agreement isn't reached soon the union will go a different route.

“This can't go on forever,” he said. “We were hoping the school board would join us and go to binding arbitration or fact-finding.

“After the new year, we will look at a different approach,” he said “We have no choice.”

Is their a possibility of a strike?

“We're saying a strike is an alternative,” he said. “We don't have plans for it right now, but it's a possibility.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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