Hartford School Staff Rally for Better Pay, Benefits

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School staff in Hartford are calling for action.

Some say they have gone years without raises and they’re asking the district to step up to the plate as contract negotiations get underway.

Hartford school staff raised their voices in what was dubbed a Freedom to Thrive Rally on Tuesday.

“Our insurance costs are going up. Our salaries are flatlining,” said Marcela Wnuk, a first grade teacher.

“I work another job so I can keep up with the cost of living,” said Shavon Russell, a school nurse.

“This last pandemic just showed how underappreciated we are. And this is it. Enough is enough,” said Grace Figueroa, a school special police officer.

Members of eight unions gathered outside Weaver High.

They’re pushing for a raise, which some haven’t received in seven years.

“Let’s talk. Enough of them ignoring us. It’s time to figure something out,” said Davey Velez, a school special police officer.

Staff are also worried about their working conditions and paying for their health care coverage.

“We now have a $4,000 deductible. In addition, our insurance costs have escalated,” said Wnuk.

Later at a school board meeting inside the school, workers spoke out and shared their concerns with district leaders.

It comes as contract negotiations are getting underway.

“We lost dozens of staff this summer from teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals. People just left feeling overworked, stressed out and underappreciated,” said Carol Gale, Hartford Federation of Teachers president.

The teachers union says higher pay outside of Hartford is one of the draws.

Though some who have worked here for years say it’s important to stay.

“The district knows that we all come because we love our kids. We don’t come to this job to get rich. But we are getting poorer,” said Russell.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the district for comment but have not yet heard back.

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