[ Fighting for you ]

New contract nets sweeteners East Hampton SRPs deserve


t’s not cheap to live in East Hampton. Perched along the tip of eastern Long Island, and famous for sweeping beachfront vistas, it’s long been the playground of the rich and famous and encompasses some of the nation’s most expensive real estate. But it’s also home to a school district. And like every other district across New York, it relies on a dedicated staff of School-Related Professionals to keep it going. SRPs like Dexter Grady, head of the district’s grounds department.

group photo of East Hamptons negotiations team members from left, East Hampton negotiations team members Michael Castello, Amanda Hayes, President Dexter Grady and Samone Johnson; President Dexter Grady holds up a piece of paper that reads: David Fiorello

From left, East Hampton negotiations team members Michael Castello, Amanda Hayes, President Dexter Grady and Samone Johnson. Not pictured is David Fiorello.

Grady is president of the East Hampton Union Free School District SRP Association, representing 120 members, including paraprofessionals, grounds workers, mechanics, bus drivers, custodians, IT staff and more. “It costs a lot to live here in Suffolk County,” said Grady. “Making sure we’re paid a decent wage is very important.”

Recognizing the value of attracting and retaining SRPs, earlier this year district leaders agreed to reopen the local’s contract to improve salary and benefits. They also extended the agreement through June 30, 2028, three additional years. “They want to make sure they have the paras … they fear that down the road they might start losing them since it’s so expensive,” said NYSUT labor relations specialist Laura Graves, who serves the East Hampton local. Many SRPs commute to the district due to soaring housing costs.

The new agreement offers a 1.75 percent salary increase, plus step, for each contract year and, for the 2023–24 year, an additional 3 percent. Other improvements include an annual payment for waiving health coverage, Juneteenth as a paid holiday for 12-month members and reimbursement for unused sick days for members planning a June 30 retirement: 57 percent for those announcing before Feb. 1, and 52 percent for those announcing later. Paraprofessionals also received an extra .5 percent salary increase; one-to-one aides, an additional $1,000 annual stipend.

“One of the biggest wins in the contract was health care; we pay 13 percent and new hires pay 14 percent and that’s locked in until 2028,” said Grady explaining that with health care costs on the rise, a rate lock for the next few years is reassuring. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American worker contributes 17 percent of their salary for individual health care coverage and 29 percent for family coverage.

“We’re overjoyed with the contract,” said Grady, who thanked Graves and East Hampton colleagues Linda Hellberg, Samone Johnson and Keilyn Clark for their help, terming them “a tremendous team.”

With a strong contract in place, Grady is focusing on boosting involvement and letting members know they’re appreciated. “Many don’t realize how good the union is; without collective bargaining there’s no pension, no comfortable way of living,” he said, also noting the value of union leadership workshops and ELT trainings he’s attended. “The teachers can’t do their jobs without SRPs.”