Contentious talks continued Tuesday between Evergreen Public Schools and its teachers union. With only a week until school starts, the district and union are locked in mediated contract negotiations, and a strike seems increasingly likely.
Nearly 300 Evergreen Education Association members picketed at the school board meeting Tuesday night at the district office. Those who couldn’t fit in the meeting room stood outside shouting chants, including “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power!”
Inside, teachers asked the school board to hold off on approving the district’s 2016-17 budget until the contract is negotiated. The board, however, passed the budget unanimously.
The current contract expires Aug. 31, the first day of school.
Here’s what the union is requesting: salary and benefits competitive with the state’s 10 largest districts, more support for special education students, additional counselors and support services, basic curriculum and securing enough substitute teachers by offering higher pay.
“We’re the fifth-largest district in Washington, but the fact is, our top pay lags $20,000 to $25,000 a year behind salaries already negotiated in smaller districts such as Everett,” read a statement the Evergreen Education Association posted after Monday’s mediated negotiations. “While Deeder may pretend that Evergreen is ‘competitive’ despite that huge gap in pay, he would be hard pressed to find anyone outside his own circle of yes-men to share his view.”
Previously: A state-appointed mediator joined teachers contract negotiations between Evergreen Public Schools and the teachers union, Evergreen Education Association, last week.
What’s new: Teachers, parents and community members gathered at a special school board meeting Tuesday night. During an executive session, school board members discussed contract negotiations.
What’s next: Mediated bargaining continues through this week. At the Aug. 30 union membership meeting, teachers will either ratify a new contract or vote to strike. The current contract expires Aug. 31.
During a break in contract negotiations Tuesday, union President Rob Lutz said the district has yet to address the union’s larger concerns that will lead to a deal.
“Having the state-appointed mediator is a new twist to get the ball rolling,” Lutz said. “Everyone’s working hard here. I brought my sleeping bag in case. We have an interest in teachers’ being back to school and students in class.”
Lutz said teachers still are expected to show up to work for three in-service days — today, Thursday and Aug. 30.
Mediated bargaining sessions continue today, Thursday and Friday. At the Aug. 30 union membership meeting, teachers will either ratify a new contract or vote to strike.
More than 26,000 students are enrolled in the district. It’s the largest school district in Southwest Washington and the fifth-largest in the state. The union has about 1,830 members.