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Jan. 29, 2023

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Evergreen Public Schools paraeducators reject contract

Union’s bargaining team had given deal tentative approval

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Members of the Evergreen Public School Employees large group union rejected a tentative contract offer from Evergreen Public Schools on Thursday night. The union’s bargaining team had previously reached a tentative agreement with the district’s team on Oct. 18.

The union — which represents an estimated 1,000 classified staff members in Evergreen, including about 650 paraeducators — announced in a press release Monday that members will be holding a rally outside the district’s headquarters just before the board of directors’ meeting at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Members previously staged a rally before the board meeting on Oct. 12, which was followed by a series of public comments from paraeducators and community members during the meeting itself.

“Our members work hard every day to provide outstanding service to our community’s schools and students. Classified staff in Evergreen can’t keep falling behind their peers in neighboring districts,” Mindy Troffer-Cooper, a paraeducator at Harmony Elementary School and union chapter president, said in the Monday press release.

Evergreen’s latest offer

Evergreen Public Schools created a webpage dedicated to details on bargaining with the union last week; it features a list of specific percentage raises for various positions within the union and a set of documents showing what the two bargaining teams had agreed upon last week.

In recent weeks, union representatives have maintained that paraeducator wages need to be comparable to other districts in the region to help attract and retain critical staffers. According to the salary schedule shared by the district, Evergreen has proposed to raise the starting salary for Class I paraeducators to $19.72 per hour and $20.96 per hour for Class II paraeducators for the 2022-2023 school year.

Per the union’s previous contract, Class I paraeducators had a starting wage of $17.01 per hour and Class II paraeducators had a starting wage of $18.08 per hour in 2020-2021.

“The webpage shares factual information regarding the tentative agreement that EPS reached with the PSE Large Group’s bargaining team,” the district said in a statement. “Evergreen Public Schools continues to bargain in good faith with our union partners with the hope of reaching a fair agreement.”

Union leaders, however, indicated that wage increases weren’t their only goal for the new contract — referencing an urge for more meeting time with classroom teachers to help explain how to best cater to students with Individualized Education Programs. Increased levels of communication between groups, they said, can help benefit both students and paraeducators.

Full statements from union members can be found in the online recording of the Oct. 12 board meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPI71E9B6hw.

Evergreen’s next board of directors meeting will be, as usual, captured live on Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The link can be found here: https://evergreenps.zoom.us/j/82373942765 and on the school board webpage.

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