AURORA | Cherry Creek School District bus assistants moved one step closer to becoming a recognized union Monday with the school board voting to approve a policy for certifying and decertifying new bargaining units in the district.
The policy passed unanimously, and the board members thanked the union members for their months of hard work lobbying to be recognized.
“What you do on a day-to-day basis has not been taken for granted,” said board director Janice McDonald.
Bus assistants work with bus drivers to maintain order on district school buses and provide support to students, particularly those who have disabilities or other special needs. Since this spring they have been organizing to form a union, driven largely by frustrations over their pay, which begins at $14.31 per hour according to information on the district’s website.
The district currently recognizes three bargaining groups, the Cherry Creek Education Association, the Cherry Creek Transportation Employees Association and the association for custodians, maintenance staff, grounds staff and carpenters.
The bus assistants have said that they would like to join the bus driver’s union, and they say that their current classification by the district as paraprofessionals is not accurate.
However, with the new policy the district has given them the option of forming their own separate union. Previously to this union drive, the district said that it did not have a policy on the books for certifying a new bargaining unit.
The vote to approve the policy was initially on the consent agenda but was separated out into its own vote so that board members could discuss it.
Board president Kelly Bates thanked the union members and the district for reaching a compromise.
“We know how hard you worked with the district and HR on this policy, want you to know how important you are to us,” said board member Kristin Allan. “School doesn’t start when kids walk into school but when they see your faces at the start of the day.”
During public comment at the meeting, union members thanked the district for being responsive to their demands.
“We look forward to a better partnership with our district,” said bus assistant Heather Music.
Elsa Bargas has been a bus assistant with the district for six years. She said that the union has a list of things it plans to bargain for, including better pay and to be reclassified as bus assistants instead of paraprofessionals.
She was excited by Monday’s vote, which she said was the result of a lot of hard work.
“This is just the first little step, but we are very happy we made it,” Bargas said.