Deeder sets webcast on Evergreen budget

Contract talks continue with teachers, other staff

By Howard Buck, Columbian staff writer



Evergreen budget timeline:

• 6 to 7 p.m. June 30, live Evergreen Public Schools webcast with Superintendent John Deeder and Finance Director Mike Merlino, simulcast on Comcast channels 28 and 29. A question-and-answer session will follow a presentation of Deeder’s budget recommendations. Questions can be submitted by email before and during the webcast at budget@evergreenp.... For all logon, telephone and other information, click here.

• 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 7, Wy’east Middle School, 1112 S.E. 136th Ave.: community forum on proposed budget cuts.

• 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 13, Frontier Middle School, 7600 N.E. 166th Ave: community forum on proposed budget cuts.

• Aug. 9, public hearing on final budget plan during school board meeting, with final adoption Aug. 23.

Superintendent John Deeder will host a live webcast on Thursday, June 30, to share his cost-savings plan for Evergreen Public Schools.

At stake are the fate of classroom teacher positions, school librarians, fifth-grade music and middle-school athletic programs, some high school counselors and dozens more potential targets.

The budget reduction goal: Somewhere between $9.5 million and $12 million.

Why the fuzzy gap, a full month after state legislators finally adopted a state budget that determined Washington’s K-12 funding levels?

Because the district and Evergreen teachers are still bargaining over that not-so-small issue of 1.9 percent pay cuts assumed by Olympia, plus other sensitive staffing issues. (Classified, nonteaching employees also would lose some pay, with details still to be determined.)

Similar heavy negotiations continue in the Vancouver and Battle Ground districts, and elsewhere in Clark County.

Without a deal in hand, any suggested budget plans are subject to major readjustment.

At Evergreen, solving the salary and other bargained matters is worth about $2.5 million. If teachers balk at salary reductions, district officials would look to additional program or staffing cuts to produce the needed savings.

The two sides have met several times since May. On Tuesday, Gloria Smith, president of the Evergreen Education Association, the district’s teachers union, reported talks have been cordial and have produced slow, but steady, progress.

Deeder declined to discuss the nature or tenor of the bargaining.

Many of the 180 nonrenewal notices given Evergreen teachers and other employees in May have been rescinded, yet Deeder warned on Tuesday, “There will be layoffs.”

Still, announcement of a tentative budget-writing timeline hints a deal will be reached before long.

In the Battle Ground district, employees from all bargaining units and district administrators were immersed Wednesday in “interest-based negotiations,” scheduled to extend through today.

It’s far different in the Vancouver district.

A tentative $9.5 million cost-savings plan for 2011-12, adopted by the school board May 31, assumes $1.2 million in teacher salary reductions and another $500,000 from classified worker and administrator pay cuts. That’s a $1.7 million impact.

But the Vancouver Education Association and district leaders remain at loggerheads. There have been few direct talks, which are unlikely to resume until August due to schedule conflicts, said Ann Giles, teachers union president.

“We are currently working on dates to meet with the district again in August. But, right now, we’re a long way apart” on a potential deal, Giles said Wednesday.

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or