Vancouver school board votes to implement its contract offer

Dispute with nonteaching staff still unresolved

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Moments after some 100 nonteaching Vancouver Public Schools employees walked out of a school board meeting in progress, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to implement provisions of the district’s July 7 best-and-final contract offer to the workers union, effective Sept. 1.

Few would consider the matter to be closed, however.

Members of the Vancouver Association of Educational Support Employees again showed up in force. Green-shirted workers picketed along Falk Road before they packed the district board room. Several appealed to the school board, urging it to reopen contract talks that hit a dead end in August.

The VAESP includes more than 600 nonteaching employees, including secretaries, clerks, technology assistants and paraeducators who work directly with students.

Last week, the union filed a formal unfair labor practices complaint with the state’s labor board in Olympia, charging the district improperly cut off talks.

The district denies any wrongdoing. In a written statement issued Tuesday, human resources Executive Director Missy Hallead rebutted the union’s assertion it is open to new talks: The union has refused to bargain protocols for layoff and work schedules that lie at the heart of the dispute, rendering useless mediation sessions in August and any new talks, she said.

Workers filed from the meeting room as board President Mark Stoker read an explanation of Superintendent Steve Webb’s contract terms. The union has criticized changes in Webb’s contract, which have added thousands more dollars to his compensation package, beyond his base salary.

Stoker said the changes were justified. He said Webb and other administrators stand to lose pay this year, in the form of two furlough days and reduced training days. Teachers and other employees also will take pay cuts, following reductions in state school funding.

School board member Mari Greves interrupted the board’s contract vote to express empathy for workers, but also to declare, “Our hands are tied.”

Greves noted the dispute will likely be resolved only with an arbitrator’s ruling. Within the contract, “(there are) not things I would have agreed to, every step of the way. … But, I feel I have to vote for this,” she said.