| Lauren LeBel
CHICOPEE — The Chicopee School Committee approved a memorandum of agreement with the Chicopee Education Association Unit A that will increase pay for its teachers and staff by 5% in fiscal year 2024.
Ward 1 School Committee member Tim Wagner said this is a “great first step” towards equitable pay for the teachers and securing staff long term. Looking at the salary schedules for Unit A, Wagner noted that there is “not all that much to be earned” for the earlier years of the contract and not much of an increase. He added that the real benefit lies in the long-term employment with the city of Chicopee.
While this is a great first step, he said there is a long way to go.
Wagner went on to say that other districts contribute or, at a face value, charge less for insurance which he believes the city needs to rethink entirely.
“That in conjunction with cost of living, inflation [and] other things, just makes being a teacher right now and being someone in public employment in general not all that lucrative. And we want to make the Chicopee Public Schools and the city of Chicopee the best possible place for not just teachers, but for DPW employees, Planning Department employees, for staff and human resources in the treasures and the collectors office — we want to make this the best possible option to work for them,” Wagner said.
He shared that insurance, pay raises and “all of that” needs to be taken into consideration.
“We cannot just do this one simple step and call it a day, the effort needs to continue to be made,” Wagner said.
Financial Director John Miarecki said the funding source for the raises is additional educational money that is set aside with the city. More specifically, Mayor John Vieau said it is from the Educational Stabilization Fund.
Miarecki noted that there is a 3% raise for Unit A with the current agreement. On top of that, 2% will be added, which is a total of 5% for FY24. Adjustments were also made to some of the steps.
Superintendent Dr. Marcus Ware explained that if someone in Unit A is a master’s step 6, they currently earn $63,784. “What we’re proposing is they would move to $65,022 [and] for [FY]24-25 with an additional 2%, they move to $66,322,” he said.
Ward 7 School Committee member Donald Lamothe reiterated that this is just a first step and the city is trying to get in line with what other districts are doing.
Ward 9 School Committee member Ronald Bernard thanked Wagner for his comments and said he supports them entirely, along with the people on the committee who put this proposal together.
The School Committee approved the memorandum, so it will now go before the City Council for a final vote.