WATCH YOUR EMAIL
Be watching your email in the next few days for two opportunities to make a difference. You will receive a ballot to vote for our new Vice President. There will also be a survey coming giving you an opportunity to provide input for professional development for paras next year.
CLUSTER REP TERMS DUE TO EXPIRE
Our cluster representative and cluster leads are due to expire after a two year term. We will hold an election in the fall for the new term. Each of the five clusters has seven (7) positions. The preference is to have four (4) special ed paras, one (1) health para, one (1) tech para and one (1) secondary/elementary paras. In addition, we will be looking for two (2) bus paras to represent their group. This is an exciting time to get involved in AHPA, we will be negotiating our next contract and will be working towards other positive changes for our group. Take some time over the summer to contemplate whether this would be a good time to become more involved in your association and make a difference.
INFORMATION ON RETIREMENT (and 403b)
I get a lot of questions from Paraeducators who are considering retirement and I’d like to share the information that I share with those who approach me.
I’m explaining all of this for two reasons. First, there is a lot of confusion around how the 403b works and many paras are unaware of the conditions on the last page of the contract that may make it beneficial to resign rather than retire.
First – a little contract language:
For Paraeducators hired on or after July 1, 2011, the sick leave severance as set forth in Section 1 of this Article is not available.
A severance payment shall be available to paraeducators who have at least 10 years of seniority with the District, are immediately eligible for a Minnesota State retirement pension, and notify Employee Services of the intended retirement no later than March 1. For the purpose of this Section, the duty year shall begin July 1 of one calendar year and end on June 30 of the following calendar year.
The severance payment base will be determined by multiplying the paraeducator’s unused sick leave hours times the paraeducator’s current wage rate on the salary schedule including seniority pay but excluding any other stipend as of the date of retirement, not to exceed 90 days pay. As noted in Paragraph B below, the value of accumulated sick leave over 90 sick days shall be allocated to the Health Care Savings Plan for benefit eligible enrolled paraeducators.
In layman’s terms – if you were hired after July 1, 2011 you are not eligible for severance pay.
If you were hired prior, you are eligible for severance pay consisting of your accumulated sick leave minus the dollar amount that the district has already contributed (matched) to your 403b since 2011. If you have more than 90 days, it will go into a Health Care Savings Plan that you can use for health care premiums, medical/dental bills, prescriptions, etc.
If you started your 403b when it began in 2011, and contributed the full amount that the district would match, they will have contributed in excess of $15,000 by now. (I’m going to use some approximations here) A SPED para making about $24/hour would need more than 630 hours of sick time before they would be eligible for a severance payment, which would be more than 90 days. Again, anything over 90 days goes into a health care savings plan.
There will be very few paras who see a severance unless you never invested in a matching 403b and have accumulated sick time.
If you retire from the district and at some future date your circumstances change and you find yourself wanting to come back, there is some language on the last page of our contract that will affect you greatly. Currently if you are hired back, you will return on the same step (with step increases) that you left at. You will not be eligible for district health care, dental, life insurance, paid holidays, etc. You will be eligible for two (2) sick days per year.
Retired teachers/paraeducators or any other employees hired shall not be eligible or entitled to receive any benefits set forth in Article VII, IX, X, XII and XIII of the collective bargaining agreement
Unless you are absolutely certain that there are no circumstances where you may wish to come back to the district, you may want to consider resigning rather than retiring. Keep in mind that if you choose to resign, you would not be eligible to continue the district health insurance (an option available to retirees) other than the 18 months that employees are eligible for through COBRA.
If you are seriously considering retirement in the near future, you should reach out to PERA and Jackie Nelson (Insurance Benefits Supervisor) X61085. They will make sure you understand all of the options that pertain to your personal situation.
The AHPA Board has voted to recognize our retirees this year with a gift. If a para chooses to resign rather than retire, we would be unaware unless the para chooses to notify us. We don’t want to exclude someone because they decided it was in their best interest to resign rather than retire.
I will be sending out a form soon to all members of AHPA that are retiring this year.
IF you are eligible to retire but choose to resign instead to keep your options open, please send me an email and let me know ASAP. I will then send out the same form that I am sending to the other retirees.
WALKIE TALKIE HOLDER (a paraeducator design)
OUR VERY OWN NANCY WAUGH MAKES THESE WALKIE TALKIE HOLDERS
If you would like to purchase one for $10.00, please email Nancy.Waugh@ahschools.us
MESSAGE FROM AHPA PRESIDENT
I would like to thank each and every one of you for the dedication and flexibility you have shown since March of 2020. It’s been difficult for everyone, some paras were required to work in person in buildings while others could work from home, some provided emergency childcare when that’s not the job they were hired for, many were sent to other buildings to work and some were furloughed for a portion of the year. And all of this was done when much about COVID was unknown and plans continued to change.
Just know that I see all of you, how much work you put in, focusing on serving students in conditions that were far less than ideal. That was also true in our Association, we had issues, constraints and duties that we didn’t expect to have to deal with. I so appreciate all of your patience while we worked to get answers and change course to respond to this extraordinary year. While we can’t mention everybody’s work, I would like to recognize some of the para groups who had to go the extra mile.
- Health paras who have worked in buildings (often not their own) while coworkers and students were able to work from home. Health paras from secondary schools who supported their coworkers in elementary schools by conducting screenings for hearing and vision. Health paras who had the added responsibility of assessing for covid, additional documentation and all other manner of necessary duties that were never part of their role prior to covid. While so many have exceeded expectations for a normal year, I would like to say that you are extraordinary and have definitely gone beyond the call of duty! Take a minute to thank the Health Care staff in your building, let them know you appreciate their dedication and selflessness.
- Tech paras who have had additional duties added to their plate this year due to unexpected required distance learning. Preparing thousands of chromebooks for AH students and staff and manning call centers to provide troubleshooting and support for students, parents and staff.
- Special Education paras who supported special education students in emergency child care while we were in distance learning and hybrid models while many employees worked from home. Who worked closely with students that were unable or unwilling to wear a face covering, unable to social distance and in some cases unable to express how they were feeling. Who accepted increased risk of exposure in order to provide the support that their students needed and deserved while they dealt with the changes in their own world.
- Secondary paras who supported classrooms of students who did not have a licensed staff available in person due to teacher accommodations related to covid. Who were willing to do whatever was asked of them and fill in wherever they were needed.
I know I haven’t touched on all of the exceptional paras who stepped up when they were needed, who went above and beyond what is normally expected of them! I hope that all of you take great pride in knowing that you made a difference and played a big role during this unprecedented pandemic. Not everything was handled perfectly and things didn’t always go smoothly but everyone worked hard and everyone did their best. The district couldn’t have provided for it’s students without the support and resiliency of paraeducators. Hold your head high – You made a difference!