Rochester Public Schools employees request snow day compensation

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – While snow days often bring joy to students, it’s brought compensation worries to many contracted employees in Rochester Public Schools.

Student Nutrition Services Employees and Service Employees International Union representatives brought those worries to the district Tuesday night, making for a full house at the Edison Building.

In the 2018-2019 school year, RPS called off a total of 10 days due to cold and snow. Because of this, contracted employees, such as Nutrition Services Employees are asking for snow day relief. This comes after Governor Tim Walz signed a Snow Days bill giving school districts more flexibility in making up days missed and allowing hourly staff members to get compensation for those days.

“These folks are only paid once a month. its a big deal to lose ten days of pay,” SEIC Contract Organizer Russ Lewis said.

In Tuesday’s meeting, about 30 of those employees walked stood in front of the district asking to get paid for the missed snow days. Before leaving the group left a petition with nearly 120 signatures with RPS board members.

“Many of these people work two jobs,” Lewis continued. “Its big deal to lose ten days of pay and they want to be paid. Simple as that.”

Adding to the packed house, another union group attended Tuesday night’s meeting. The Rochester Paraprofessional Association is working on contract negotiations with RPS. The group has been around for many years but last year reorganized with Education Minnesota; the same union as Rochester teachers.

The group has met with the district seven times, but has yet to settle it’s contract. Secondary paraprofessional at Mayo High School Tammy Szewczynski says the group wants to the district to grant them professional development, livable wages and professional respect with contract negotiations.

“There’s strength in numbers we all support each other and back each other, as well as our food services brothers and sisters who we heard form tonight,” Szewczynski said.

Superintendent Michael Muñoz says that the “Snow Days Bill” does not require the district to pay snow relief to contracted employees. He says they’ve been in contact with the Minnesota Department of Education and working on interpreting the law. The district is still working out where to go next.

“We want to make sure that we do it right, and there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to look at,” Muñoz explained. “They are not the only group that would get paid through to that and we have a lot of contracts. There’s some language in contracts that say how much they get paid and who gets paid so there’s a lot of things that we have to factor in before we eventually go to the board for a recommendation.”

Munoz guesses a recommendation will be brought to the board by the district’s first June meeting.

Beret Leone

Beret Leone

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