Lawrence school board recognizes labor union for district’s classified staff

photo by: Meetings screenshot/Lawrence school board

PAL-CWA chair Hannah Allison, on screen, speaks to the Lawrence school board about recognizing the labor union to represent the school district's classified staff during a board meeting on Monday, June 14, 2021.

A labor union representing the Lawrence school district’s paraeducators grew to include all classified staff on Monday.

The Lawrence school board unanimously approved recognizing PAL-CWA as the union representing the staff category that includes custodians, office and cafeteria staff and other employees who aren’t licensed teachers. As a recognized union, the members will bargain with the district administration over wages, benefits and various workplace issues.

After voting, Board President Kelly Jones said the board appreciates the classified staff’s work for the district and looked forward to working with the union.

The union had previously been recognized as a bargaining unit for paraeducators, who are classroom teaching assistants providing additional support to students. However, when the board formally approved that version of the union, board members and district administration asked the union to consider expanding its umbrella to include all classified staff.

Deputy Superintendent Anna Stubblefield told the board on Monday the union had recently reached the majority support among all classified staff to be included in the union. The newly approved version of the union now represents more than 700 employees in the district.

When asking the board to recognize the new-look union, PAL-CWA Chair Hannah Allison told the board bringing all classified staff under one union would make it easier for both the district administration and the union to negotiate a single contract, as opposed to several contracts with bargaining groups representing different staff groups.

Allison also told the board the union is excited to work with district administration and the board to make the district “the best it can be.”

“Our union is really important to us because we know the day-to-day working conditions that we work in are also our students’ working conditions,” Allison said. “We are eager to make Lawrence Public Schools the best workplace for us but also the best learning environment for our students and the whole community.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved the appointment of Kathryn Branson as interim principal for West Middle School and Becky Reaver as interim principal for Cordley Elementary School. Both will take over the positions on July 1.

The district announced the appointments in news releases earlier on Monday. Branson currently serves as assistant principal and athletic director for West and Reaver serves as a fifth grade teacher for Cordley, the district said in the announcement.

Branson and Reaver will replace former principals Brad Kempf and Scott Cinnamon, respectively. Kempf has accepted an administrative position with the Emporia school district and Cinnamon resigned to pursue a business opportunity, the district said.

• The board tabled taking action on a proposed memorandum of understanding with the City of Lawrence regarding the Safe Routes to Schools plan. Board member Shannon Kimball said the board had some technical concerns about the language of the MOU.

Kimball said the way the MOU was written appeared to commit the district to part of the plan that it was not involved in the crafting and is not prepared to fulfill. Jessica Mortinger, transportation planning manager for the city, told the board city and school district staff would work on the language of the MOU to address those concerns.

• Heard reports on the district’s work to transition former Kennedy Elementary School students to nearby elementary schools as part of the district’s plan to turn Kennedy Elementary’s building into an early-childhood education center and the district’s student services for social, emotional and behavioral health.

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