Workers seek expanded benefits

Avonworth paraprofessional and food service workers staged a “silent protest” at Monday’s school board work session. The workers, whose contract with the district is under negotiation, want to receive family health insurance coverage like that received by other employees. Photo by Nancy Whyte for The Citizen

By NANCY WHYTE

Avonworth School Board members faced a silent protest at Monday night's work session, as support staff asked the board to provide the same family health insurance benefit enjoyed by other employees.

More than a dozen individuals holding signs were quietly assembled outside the entrance to the administration portion of the building. When the doors opened, the group entered the board room, and once seated, continued holding signs that expressed such sentiments as: “We support the students. Can you support family health care?” “Say ‘yes’ to family health care for paras and food service.” “Healthcare for all.”

Matt Edgell, a PSEA advocacy coordinator, said the presentation was an informational picket by the Avonworth Educational Support Paraprofessionals, whose contract expires at the end of June. According to Edgell, every full-time employee in the Avonworth School District has family health care insurance available to them, except for the paraprofessionals and food service workers. While those employees who are full-time can receive health insurance themselves, their families are not eligible for coverage. In the new contract being negotiated, the members are asking for expanded health care coverage.

During the visitors' comments portion of the meeting, a resident of Ohio Township spoke in favor of extending health care insurance to the families of eligible paraprofessionals and food service workers. He stated that the district emphasizes fairness, so all employees should be offered the same health insurance benefits. The district shouldn't “pick and choose” which employees get to receive the benefit and which don't, he said.

“I realize how important it is to be fiscally responsible,” he said, but “if you want to do something, you can find a way to get it done.”

Board president David Oberdick said that because the contract was currently under negotiation, the board could not discuss the matter. The negotiations, Oberdick said, “are an ongoing process.”