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Mt. Lebanon paraprofessionals to picket board meeting as district moves to hire temporary aides

Red lockers inside a school.
Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

Like many area school districts, Mt. Lebanon says it’s struggling to hire paraprofessional classroom aides. But paraprofessionals working in the schools say it’s a pay issue, not a shortage.

The administration has proposed contracting with two agencies to provide temporary substitute paraprofessional services to fill vacancies. The board is set to vote on those contracts tonight. Staff with the district have questioned if the substitutes will be paid more than they are.

During a board meeting last week, a handful of paraprofessionals said the starting pay is around $13, and many noted that’s less than what some fast food companies are now offering.

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Members of the Mt. Lebanon Education Support Professionals union plan to picket outside of the high school before a board meeting Monday.

They say they’re demanding equitable pay. Some of the speakers at last week’s board meeting suggested that increased pay would attract more applicants to permanent positions.

Raquel Arthurs, a paraprofessional at Howe Elementary School, told the board that the students she works with, especially those with disabilities, need consistency.

“We need people that are going to be here every single day, that are going to learn our kids and be supportive and know how things work,” she said. “It’s a relationship.”

Annette Novak, the president of the union representing paraprofessionals, said that staff are overstretched and need more support.

“The staff go home at the end of the day and don’t feel like they’ve done a good job. They’ve done all they can possibly do, but they don’t think they’ve done enough to support all of the students they’re being asked to help,” she said.

District administrators did not answer questions from WESA about the need for temporary substitutes and the ongoing contract negotiations.

In a written statement, district spokesperson Kristen James said the district does not comment on bargaining matters outside of negotiations.

“We will continue to work with our team and their representatives to come to a conclusion that is both fair and equitable as we keep in mind the mission of our district to provide the best possible education to each and every student,” she said.