Washougal teachers to vote on one-year contract

Union, district hash out second agreement

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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It’s take two for the Washougal Association of Educators and Washougal School District.

After association members voted against ratifying a new contract on Sept. 6, union and district leaders have a new tentative agreement in place after a four-hour bargaining session Thursday night. To ratify the new labor contract, 60 percent of the nearly 200 members of the Washougal Association of Educators will have to approve it.

“It’s a better agreement than what we had when we ratified last time,” said Frank Zahn, association president.

As of Friday afternoon, he was working on setting up a time and location to hold the association meeting to take a vote today or Tuesday.

The two sides started working with a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission in late August after initial talks stalled. The deadline to get a new contract in place was Aug. 31, and the district and association announced they reached a tentative agreement on Sept. 1. The last time the two sides negotiated, they couldn’t reach a deal by the Aug. 31, 2015, deadline, and a new deal wasn’t reached until Dec. 28, 2015.

The tentative agreement is for a one-year contract, but Zahn declined to discuss the details before the union votes. Typically, the two sides negotiate two-year contracts, but Zahn said uncertainty about the McCleary decision, which ordered the state to fully fund basic education, led the two sides to work on a one-year deal.

“The legislation creates issues that we could not address in this contract,” Zahn said. “Both sides are in the land of unknown in what’s coming.”

Washougal Superintendent Mike Stromme said he couldn’t provide details on the new agreement either, and continued to praise the work his staff does.

“We value our teachers and we look to them,” he said. “We’re extremely appreciative of them for their service to our children and families. We want to provide fair compensation to them.”