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News / Clark County News

Evergreen Public Schools, teachers union bring in state mediator as contract negotiations stall

Evergreen Education Association leader says the two sides 'are not close' to agreement

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 17, 2023, 5:27pm

Bargaining teams from Evergreen Public Schools and the Evergreen Education Association have brought in a state mediator to help reach a tentative agreement amid stalled contract negotiations.

Union President Kristie Peak said that if the two sides can’t reach a tentative agreement by the union’s membership meeting on Aug. 23, the union will likely vote on whether to authorize a strike. Even in that event, however, Peak said the union would continue bargaining until a deal is reached.

As of Wednesday, Peak said the two sides “are not close” to an agreement.

The district updated its bargaining updates webpage Thursday to include copies of its most recent proposal on Aug. 9 and the following counterproposal from the teachers union on Aug. 14.

Evergreen’s proposed three-year contract would feature a 4.7 percent raise in the 2023-2024 school year — including what’s provided in the annual state-funded inflationary bonus, known as the implicit price deflator. The second year of the contract will feature a 0.5 percent raise in addition to the implicit price deflator; the final year staff would only receive what’s provided by the implicit price deflator.

The offer also includes an additional professional development day and an increase from 8.8 percent to 10 percent in time, responsibility and incentive pay — a pool of local funding used to support staff who take on after-hours roles such as club sponsor or after-school tutor.

Peak said the biggest gap between the two sides is on the understanding that teachers need a serious increase in support staff and preparation time to properly aid a student population that’s struggled heavily since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now, our educators, the ones that work directly with students are being stretched precariously thin,” she said.

Monthslong negotiations

A district representative said the district’s bargaining team hopes the addition of a mediator, whom Peak said first met with the union Thursday, will advance the talks.

“Evergreen Public Schools appreciates that the EEA has agreed to enter into joint mediation,” the district shared in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The district requested this mediation in June. In the past, mediation has been used to assist in reaching agreements. EPS will continue to bargain with the EEA in good faith in order to reach an agreement that is affordable and sustainable.”

This summer’s expressed concerns from the Evergreen Education Association — which were first voiced during a rally outside the June 14 board meeting — echo similar sentiments shared by Evergreen’s paraeducators union and the Ridgefield Educators Association in respective bargaining sessions last year.

Ridgefield’s contract negotiations, which also featured a state-provided mediator, ultimately led to a six-day teacher strike that froze Ridgefield schools just days after the school year began.

“There are more academic needs, more emotional behavioral needs, lots of kids who need English language supports, more students on (individualized education plans),” Peak said. “This is an increasingly complex world and COVID was part of that. Our kids are just dealing with more.”

The union’s current contract expires Aug. 31; the 2023-2024 school year begins Aug. 30.

Full copies of the most recent proposals from both the district and teachers union can be viewed here: https://sites.google.com/evergreenps.org/human-resources/eea-bargaining-update.