Saturday, February 29, 2020
Feb. 29, 2020

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Evergreen Public Schools ready to play hardball

School board approves broad range of actions if district teachers strike

By , Columbian Education Reporter

As bargaining sessions continue, Evergreen Public Schools is the first district to hint at possible action against teachers who strike.

The school board at its budget hearing Thursday approved a resolution giving the district — and specifically Superintendent John Steach — a broad range of actions it could take in response to a teacher strike. They include:

• Directing the law firm of Karr Tuttle Campbell to “take lawful steps … necessary to terminate any strike or concerted refusal to perform services.”

• Suspending payment of health insurance premiums for all employees involved in a work stoppage.

• Limiting building access to law enforcement, nonstriking employees, students, parents and “other persons whose presence on the school property … is deemed necessary or desirable by the superintendent of the district.”

The Evergreen Education Association voted overwhelmingly that same evening to strike effective Tuesday, the first day of school.

EEA President Bill Beville, speaking quickly before going to another bargaining session, said union members understand the district might “act in untoward ways.”

“It’s discouraging that the district is trying to employ scare tactics,” Beville said.

But, he added, “We’ve been preparing them for this possibility.

“They understand what their rights are,” he said.

Evergreen Public Schools approved a similar resolution in 2016, when the district filed an injunction to prevent the union from striking when union negotiations turned sour. The judge at the time issued a restraining order preventing teachers from striking on the first day of school, citing concerns it would put families in the difficult position of trying to find child care hours before school started. The district and the union ultimately settled before the first day of school, preventing a strike.

“Other districts in the same situation pass similar resolutions in the event of a strike,” district spokeswoman Gail Spolar said by email.

No other districts in Clark County have approved similar resolutions, though negotiations are ongoing.

“At this point in the process, we’re not planning to bring forth any resolutions,” said Rita Sanders, spokeswoman for Battle Ground Public Schools, by email. “We feel that bringing in the mediator is a positive step that will help us continue to work collaboratively with (the Battle Ground Education Association).”