The Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals and Vancouver Public Schools reached a tentative agreement in their continued contract negotiations Wednesday night.
The two sides met for 12 hours Wednesday, according to Adam Isaguirre, a spokesperson for the VAESP and the Washington Education Association.
The next step will be for the agreement to be presented and ratified by the VAESP’s 582 members, as well as the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors. Details of the agreement cannot be shared until it has been presented to the VAESP’s full membership.
Wednesday marked the fifth time the two sides had met with a state mediator — a step in negotiations that typically indicates a serious obstacle in communication that must be addressed. Previously, VAESP President Barb Plymate said that those communication barriers stemmed from the district’s failure to consider wage insufficiencies and safety concerns.
The district has over 50 unfilled paraeducator positions, the primary group that the VAESP represents.
Amid staffing shortages, paraeducators — particularly nurses and those working in special education — have detailed unsafe working conditions and situations where students had to be left unattended in COVID-19 isolation rooms, which are reserved for students experiencing virus symptoms. In some cases, teachers reported suffering injuries as a result of working with special education students who would typically be afforded their own one-on-one paraeducator.
The VAESP is in the process of organizing the logistics of a full membership meeting and vote, which will likely take place in the coming days or weeks.