Schools across the state are “in a crisis” because of a shortage of ed techs, and Cumberland-North Yarmouth schools can’t afford to lose their existing support professionals because of lack of a contract, according to Graham Shove, president of the SAD 51 Education Association.

“We’re in a crisis because none of the school districts can find ed techs,” Shove said in an interview with The Forecaster. “If you want people to come fill these positions, you have to pay them.”

Ed techs and secretaries in the district have been working without a contract since June 30, 2022, after union negotiations stalled. Superintendent Jeff Porter released a statement last week saying that SAD 51 officials were working hard to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, some educational support professionals have left the district for others with better pay, according to Shove.

“ESPs just want a fair wage and to be able to feel dignity in their work,” he said. “We’re not asking for anything outrageous.”

Dozens of support professionals spoke out at a school board meeting last week on the need for their wages to keep up with inflation, which has gone up 10% since the district’s ESPs last received a raise.


SAD 51 ed techs earn about $2 less per hour than in nearby districts, according to the Maine Education Association. Falmouth last year raised its ed tech wages by 6%, Shove said.

“These people serve and protect all those people on a daily basis, and some of us are doing that with education, resumes, experience, for under $20 an hour,” Jessica Windsor, a secretary in the district, said at the meeting.

In addition to a wage increase, educational support professionals also want the new contract to address “transfer” issues with their assignments.

Currently, ed techs can come into work on any given day and be transferred to a different assignment without warning, Shove said. For example, an ed tech who typically works with smaller groups of students on literary mediation could be transferred to Special Ed because of an absence.

“There’s very little language in our contract that puts any sort of guidelines around how people are transferred and how the transfer process works,” Shove said. “We’re hoping to get foundational language there so people can feel secure in their assignment on a day to day basis.”

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