Support staff contracts at an impasse

NORWICH – Representatives of Norwich City School’s support staff say they’re “disappointed” the Board of Education won’t hear their side of the story following a breakdown in contract negotiations with district officials back in the spring.

The school board and Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan say a second sit-down following the deadlock would disrupt the negotiation process agreed upon by both sides, which is set to resume Oct. 29.

Norwich’s roughly 200 support staff – secretaries, aides, paraprofessionals, technicians, custodians, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, library and payroll clerks, and health workers – have been working without a contract since June 30, after both sides failed to hammer out an agreement during three days of negotiations in late April.

Seeking pay and benefits comparable to their counterparts in Chenango County, a group of around 50 support staff workers briefly packed Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in The Eaton Center. The group walked out after Norwich Educational Support Staff Association President Trish Pepe read a prepared statement to the board during the public comment period at the meeting’s onset, leaving the room nearly empty.

“We are here tonight to remind you that both the teachers and your support staff are starting the school year without a new contract in place,” Pepe stated. “I need to tell you how disappointed and saddened we are.”

Teacher contracts negotiations are scheduled to resume this month. As for support staff, O’Sullivan said there is no contract because both sides agreed that they couldn’t strike a balance.

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