SEIU Members and MNPS Officials Meet for a “Fresh Start”!

SEIU's Lolita Kinnard and director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph at the "Fresh Start" meeting.

SEIU’s Lolita Kinnard and director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph at the “Fresh Start” meeting.

Nearly 100 school support staff came to the SEIU Local 205 union hall on a Saturday morning to meet director of Metro schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and hear his responses from the union’s Workers Committee.

The Workers Committee, made up of union members who work in the school district, welcomed Dr. Joseph and asked him a variety of questions on everything from the pay study that SEIU recently requested to raises, training, snow days, onboarding, and many other issues that have been left unaddressed by the previous MNPS administration – a story that was recently covered by the Nashville Scene.

Elected school board members and other MNPS administrators were there as well and they all saw first-hand the power that workers have when they organize and work together to solve problems and improve our schools. “Hold us accountable,” Dr. Joseph said during a discussion about how to best improve Metro schools. School board chairwoman Anna Shepherd mentioned the positive impact that SEIU leaders had on last year’s search for a new Director of Schools and she encouraged support staff to stay engaged and help lift up Metro schools.

“After 31 years of service with MNPS, I feel that we have finally been heard by someone who cares about support staff,” said Lolita Kinnard, a secretary/bookkeeper who works at Percy Priest Elementary and served on the Workers Committee. “I think that we will begin to see some changes, but we have to continue to be active and keep building our union.”

Melvin Hart Jr., a paraprofessional at Hillsboro High, said “this was a good day and a good show of strength and solidarity by my union brothers and sisters. I’m looking forward to a good year with some positive changes, but we have to keep the momentum going and stay engaged.”

“This was a positive day with quality people who want to make a positive impact on our students and our communities,” said Derek Waller, a furniture shop manager and member of the union’s Workers Committee.

Also in attendance at the meeting to meet SEIU members were MNPS administrators Deborah Story, Chris Henson, and other members of the MNPS school board. All agreed that engagement and cooperation are crucial in making forward progress at the schools and so is dignity and respect for all staff. Plans are already underway for the Workers Committee to begin planning for a follow-up meeting.

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