March 27. 2013 9:24PM

Derry board to relaunch contract talks with educational aides

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY - The School Board will reopen negotiations with the school district's educational assistants this spring.

Late last year, the board approved a new three-year contract with the educational assistants, but voters at the March 12 town election struck down the deal.

Former town councilor Kevin Coyle said the vote was likely in reaction to rising property taxes as well as a school district deliberative session vote that increased the overall school budget by $800,000.

The contract that was voted down earlier this month proposed raises of 15 cents per hour the first year, 15 cents the second year, and 25 cents the third year. Positions represented in the contract include educational assistants, special educational assistants, kindergarten assistants, library and computer assistants, and reading assistants.

"We need to determine the next step," said Superintendent Laura Nelson. "Do we reach out this year or next year to look to solve this contract situation?"

School Board member Ken Linehan said he would like to show support to the educational assistants and re-enter negotiations this spring.

"It would be beneficial to the district to get this resolved before the fall," said Linehan. "They do a great job, and I would like them to feel comfortable going into next year."

Board Chairman Brenda Willis said she agreed with Linehan.

"I was disappointed that this did not pass, and they deserve the minimum increase," she said.

Board member Neal Ochs said he believes the contract was fair and that the board should go back to the negotiating table.

With the additional $800,000 voted into the district budget, board member Dan McKenna said there is room in next year's budget for the additional $66,000 associated with the proposed contract.

"We would have to go back to the voters to ask for their approval, but we can do that without raising more money," said McKenna.

Before 2000, educational assistants were largely seen as a temporary position that people moved on from quickly, according to Linda Hawkins, who has been an educational assistant in the system for 26 years.

With the advent of the collective bargaining, Hawkins said educational assistants have been staying in the system longer.