The Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) recently announced a new agreement with its paraprofessionals, the latest step in a years-long effort to boost educators’ pay and position the district as a competitive employer that can recruit and retain the best school staff in Northwest Indiana.
The agreement was reached between the GCSC and the Gary Teachers Union, which represents paraprofessionals. Based on a contract reached in 2005, new paraprofessionals had been receiving as little as $8 an hour for their work supporting teachers in serving students. Under the new memorandum of understanding, new paraprofessionals’ pay will nearly double to $15 an hour.
“Paraprofessionals play a critical role in supporting students’ learning, and they were overdue for a pay increase,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, Manager of the GCSC. “This increase, coupled with the one-time stipend during the pandemic and the salary increase for the extended school day, dramatically boosts’ GCSC’s ability to recruit and retain the best educators, as our students deserve.”
Paraprofessionals are vital for GCSC to comply with educational and related services requirements for students with disabilities. However, due to low starting pay rates, finding qualified and interested paraprofessionals has been very difficult. In July, there were 18 open paraprofessional positions for special education, and the GCSC believes this higher rate of pay will make these positions much more compelling to prospective candidates.
Approximately 70 individuals will receive this pay increase, and the total cost increase associated with this change is approximately $205,000 per year. Since the affected individuals are currently federally funded in Title I or this excess cost can be budgeted within the federal IDEA dollars, there will be no impact to the local budget. As a condition of the increased wages, the Gary Teachers Union agreed to all edits requested by the GCSC to the changes to working conditions that need to be made to facilitate improved student outcomes.
The paraprofessional pay increase comes after the June announcement that GCSC teachers’ salaries will rise by as much as $10,000 thanks to an extended school day that will go into effect for the 2021-22 school year. GCSC teachers and paraprofessionals also received a one-time stipend in May in recognition of the challenges they worked to overcome during the pandemic.
The new agreement for paraprofessionals was announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the Distressed Unit Appeal Board. At the meeting, Dr. McNulty also shared the latest progress report for The Path Forward, the district’s two-year plan to improve academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations. Among the achievements noted was the increase in summer school attendance from 820 in 2019-20 to 1,302 for 2020-21. This 58 percent increase means more students had the opportunity to accelerate their learning and bounce back after schools were largely remote for the 2020-21 school year.
“Our students were facing challenges before the pandemic, and COVID-19 only made matters worse, but our students and families are resilient, and we are committed to offering every opportunity to help our students catch up and excel,” said McNulty. “With the expanded summer school program and the upcoming extended school day, we are providing multiple opportunities for our students to accelerate their learning.”