APS approves ESP-II contract

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools Board of Education voted to ratify a contract for instructional aides and other support workers at a special meeting Friday morning. The contract was accepted by the ESP-II union group earlier this week, and includes a 10 percent wage reduction and insurances changes with multiple options available.

“I would like to just thank the members of EPS II and also the other contracts that have been ratified before this for supporting the district and putting kids first in our education,” board President Diane Shields said. “It’s a tough time.”

The board is still in negotiations with bus drivers and teachers and hope to reach an agreement. Teachers recently overwhelmingly voted down the proposed contract and the unit is filing for fact finding with the state as the next step in thier negiotiations.

Bus drivers so far have not filed for fact finding, but also voted down the proposed contract concessions earlier this week.

“I’m very appreciative of the ESP-II and paraprofessional group agreeing to their contract,” Superintendent Brent Holcomb said. “I recognize that these are difficult times and given the economic situation in the state of Michigan and school funding in general, it’s one of those things that is difficult but necessary.”

Holcomb said the board will be returning to the bargaining table and most likely involving a mediator in the upcoming negotiation process.

“The implications for contracts are pretty straightforward,” Holcomb said. “The realities of our deficit are pretty real. Negotiations are a fluid process with ebb and flow, so it may be a simple process or it might be very complicated. We will respect the legalities of the process.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.