On March 10, Keene voters will be asked to vote on the Keene school budget, and other articles. One concerns increasing the wages of the district’s tutors. Unfortunately, the school board is recommending a “no” vote.

The negotiation process, including mediation and fact finding, took 18 months. This was an investment by the Association of Keene Tutors and the school board to reach a compromise, and neither the board nor the employees are getting everything they wanted. Both parties shared the cost of $30,000 for a mediator and a fact-finder to assist in reaching a fair compromise.

The Keene tutors are the school’s front line in supplying special education support to children in the classroom. According to the N.H. Special Education District Report of 2017, (the latest year reported on this site) there were 568 children with disabilities between pre-school and 12th grade. The disabilities are varied and the needs are diverse. Currently, 98 tutors are employed in the Keene district, with 26 vacant spots. Each tutor must be prepared to handle situations ranging from reteaching one child or a small group to defusing explosive, violent, emotional outbursts from students. Injuries from students are common for tutors. We are committed to excellence in education.

There is a high turnover rate due to these challenges, and as often heard by a new tutor, the wages are too low. Many tutors leave after their first year. We are hoping that if the voters approve these recommendations, the district may someday be able to fully staff its special education program. We want the best for Keene students, and that requires an investment to remediate the shortage of special education support staff.

Tutors, on average, make less than $15,000 a year. We have asked for wage increases that would bring us closer to the wages of other para-educators in the surrounding areas, including the other schools in SAU 29. Included in the fact finder’s report is a statement that he believed the district can afford such wage increases.

The fact finder, a neutral arbitrator with extensive experience and expertise, has issued fair recommendations. These recommendations will appear on the March 2020 school district warrant as article 11. The full 76-page fact finder’s report is available to the public. Please, vote yes on warrant article 11, and support tutors.

KATHY TWOMBLY

170 George St.

Keene

(This writer is president of the Association of Keene Tutors.)