Educators and support staff speak on the need for increased support at school board meeting

Local unions for educators and support staff continue to face challenges in contract negotiations.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 4:23 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Presidents for the Fairbanks Education Association and the Education Support Staff Association spoke out on the lack of support they receive during a regularly scheduled school board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

At the meeting, Danielle Logan, the president of the Education Support Staff Association or ESSA, spoke to the board about the lack of support received by members of the union.

“We are integral for our students, teachers and schools and deserve your attention. Right now our ESP’s (Education Support Professionals} are not feeling supported, valued or respected,” said Logan.

Both educators and support staff have faced difficulty continuing their duties since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contract negotiations have also posed challenges. On Nov. 7, ESSA and the school district both declared an impasse in contract negotiations. Some of the issues being voiced by ESSA include increased work loads, staffing shortages, lack of training, safety and low wages. “For the last two years, they’ve been asked to do more with less,” said Logan. “Some support staff already start at less than $15 an hour.”

ESSA is working to alleviate some of these issues in their next contract. They want to update contract language that is focused on employee safety and they want to increase training. “As it is, our new hires are put into a classroom with no training and 30 minutes of onboarding,” said Logan.

The Fairbanks Education Association (FEA) expressed similar concerns for educators in the school district. “Your employees are weary,” said Sandi Ryan, President of the FEA. She said that when FEA members speak to her after attending negotiations, they are unhappy with the voice and tone being used by school district negotiators, which makes it hard for them to believe that the school district wants to support them. Ryan added that the FEA does not feel that the district’s bargaining team has made offers that support the staff either.

Negotiations between the FEA and the district remain in contention. Meanwhile, ESSA and the school district are working to schedule mediated negotiations.