Board sides with NTU; waives last day for all staff

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire From left, attorney Terri Donovan and Nashua Teacher’s Union representation Adam Marcoux and Patty Gagnon consult during Thursday’s meeting, which lasted nearly five hours.

NASHUA – Paraeducators, secretaries and food service workers in the Nashua School District finished the school year on Friday after Board of Education members conducted a nearly five-hour meeting on Thursday to debate the matter.

Ultimately late Thursday, the board agreed with the grievance brought forth by the Nashua Teachers’ Union, therefore, waiving Monday as a day of work for the service employees.

In the grievance, the union alleged the district was in violation of contractual agreements by “unilaterally (changing) working conditions and the work year for members of (the union) without having bargained in good faith over the change in working conditions and the impact on the bargaining members.”

When the last day for students was set as Friday, and the last for staff as Monday, the board waived Monday for the teachers. Monday was offered to the other three bargaining units as a voluntary professional development/safety training opportunity that they could work for compensation, take as a personal day, or simply not get paid.

The teachers got the safety training during the second half of the day Friday.

The NTU requested that Monday be waived for the hourly employees, as it had been for the teachers, and referenced the 2016-2017 school year, during which two days had been waived.

After nearly five hours in the grievance hearing, the board deliberated and sided with the union by a slim margin, with three “yes” votes from Doris Hohensee, Heather Raymond and Elizabeth Van Twuyver, two “no” votes from Gloria Timmons and Raymond Guarino, along with an abstention from board President Dotty Oden, who has a daughter working in the district. Members Howard Coffman, Susan Porter and Bill Mosher were absent.

Waiving the day for the remaining units will essentially “cost” the district an estimated $57,000. However, union attorney Terri Donovan said that aside from the food service workers, whose budget is dependent largely on meal transactions, that money has already been budgeted for those employees.

District Chief Operating Officer Daniel Donovan said during his witness testimony that he personally believes it is bad practice to pay people for not working and that any revenue remaining, such as $57,000 can be redistributed to other areas.

What it came down to, Hohensee said after the vote, was equity and respect. The units work as a team, she said, and if they waive the day for teachers, they should waive it for all employees.

Raymond agreed, adding that for her, the decision to vote in favor of the union was “not so much about feelings,” but about the contract language and the fact that working conditions were changed without proper negotiations.

The last day of school conversation began in January and did not wrap up until May, and by then the district had eight inclement weather days to work around in determining the schedule. During that time, according to the grievance, there were several options presented and ongoing negotiations for much of that time until May 8, at which time the decision was made by the board that hourly employees would work on June 25 if they wanted to be paid.

No further negotiations were made, despite NTU President Adam Marcoux’s claims that he attempted to address concerns regarding contract violations.

For the hearing Thursday, several paraeducators, secretaries and food service workers sat in the audience, waiting, wearing “NTU blue” in solidarity. They sat for just shy of five hours, while Superintendent Jahmal Mosley, Marcoux, their respective counsel and the board debated the issue.

When the final decision was made at almost 11 p.m., one woman, grinning said quietly, “It was worth it.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or