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Derry finalizes contract with educational assistants

DERRY - The school district has finalized a new three-year contract with its educational assistants.

"We've had several meetings over the last 2 months and the negotiations went very smoothly," said school board member Neal Ochs. "There were a few language changes regarding insurance, but nothing drastic."

The three-year contract will see the educational assistants get raises of 15 cents 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 appreciate what all the people included in the contract do," said school board chairman Brenda Willis. "They work with our most needy students."

The educational assistants began negotiating as a collective bargaining unit in 2000. The language in the contract has remained fairly constant over the past dozen years and has created greater equity between educational assistants in Derry and in other school districts.

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.

"It's not only a job, but it's very fulfilling," she said. "It's possible to integrate with being a mom very nicely."

The positions have the same vacation schedules and summers off as the children who go to school.

"It's a position where you never do the same thing day in and day out," said Hawkins. "The kids always bring a smile or spark. I have been here 26 years, and it never gets old."

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