Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Richmond schools, unionized staff reach agreement on raises

Richmond City educators, organizers and Superintendent Jason Kamras announce the ratified union contracts on Thursday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)
Crixell Matthews
Richmond City educators, organizers and Superintendent Jason Kamras announce the ratified union contracts on Thursday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond Public Schools announced ratification of multiple collective bargaining agreements, mostly centered on raises, on Thursday. The city’s school board still has to approve the district’s budget before these agreements are finalized.

Three-year agreements with four staff groups were reached: teachers, instructional assistants, nutrition staff and security staff. The agreements call for a minimum 12% raise for teachers and a 40% raise for instructional assistants — both over a three-year period.

The Virginia Education Association and Richmond Education Association, affiliates of the National Education Association union, were involved in the bargaining process.

Superintendent Jason Kamras said at a Thursday press conference that the 40% raise would mean a starting salary of $30,000 in the 2025-26 school year for instructional assistants.

“We'd love to do even more going forward, but the fact that it was below that is really problematic in a world with rising inflation, a city where costs are going up,” Kamras said. “And so, this is a huge step forward in showing respect and dignity to our instructional assistants.”

Under the agreements, nutrition workers would get a 25% raise over three years and school security staff — which the district calls its care and safety unit — would get a 10% raise over three years.

Kamras said similar to the raise for instructional assistants, the 25% raise will mean a “living wage” for nutrition workers with a new starting salary of about $19 an hour.

Edward Gore, who led the care and safety collective bargaining unit, said morale among his staff is up now. The starting salary for safety personnel would also break $30,000 annually.

“This is what Richmond Public Schools really needs,” Gore said. “We are now competitive with other area schools with our salaries, where before we couldn't get qualified people. We have the opportunity now to attract qualified people to care for our children, our building and our staff.”

Charlotte Hayer, a Richmond Community High School teacher and former Richmond Education Association president, said the agreements will hopefully give educators some peace of mind for at least the next three years.

“Neither side got everything that it wanted,” Hayer told VPM News. “But it's a step in the right direction. So, I'm pretty excited about it.”

Hayer said she hopes eventually, educators will have contracts that spell out everything that’s required of them, “so that there are no surprises.” Having those “other duties” more clearly defined is also something that Richmond Education Association members have been pushing for.

Kamras told VPM News that while some agreement was reached regarding roles and responsibilities, compensation was offered to make up for requests that the district wasn’t able to meet.

“This is a historic achievement,” said VEA President James Fedderman. RPS is the first school district in the state to pass a resolution allowing collective bargaining after the law was recently changed to allow it.

“In my classroom, on a day like today, I would be playing a song entitled ‘New Attitude,’” Fedderman said. “Because that's what we have. We have a new attitude about great and amazing things that are going to be taking place in Richmond Public Schools.”

Fedderman, formerly a music teacher in Accomack County, also noted that he wants to come back to the table in three years and negotiate even better contracts for RPS staff.

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.