Archive for May, 2009

KEA Members Again Rally at May 27th School Board Meeting

May 30, 2009

KEA Rally Photos – 5/27-09

Well over one hundred KEA members turned out on May 27th to again call on the Kent School Board to address the issues of Time, Workload, and Compensation.  KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson spoke to the crowd, stating that these are the issues brought forward by the members, and that changes are essential so that educators can provide a quality education to every child.

Participants filed into the board meeting, and later in the evening Brackin-Johnson and others later addressed the board.  Among the speakers was former Kent teacher Kim McKeever, a National Board certified teacher and former KEA Bargaining Team member, who left Kent last year to work in another district.  McKeever spoke powerfully to the board about the lack of support she receved as a teacher and the disrespect she felt from the district, both as an educator and at the bargaining table.  After seeing salary comparisons with other area districts, McKeever made a call to the Lake Washington School District and was hired within a week.  She now makes $10,000 more per year and enjoys the collaborative and professional work environment provided by her new employer.

As if to illustrate truth of Kim’s remarks about disrespect, KSD General Counsel Chuck Lind interrupted the presentation to the board later made by KEA member Ron Nauer.  Nauer was speaking of the time demands made on middle school teachers, and started to describe a recent week in which he was required to attend eight meetings.  Lind began to shout from the back of the room that Nauer is “on the KEA bargaining team”  and was “negotiating.”   A KEA official pointed out that Nauer was simply speaking of his experience as an employee and of what is currently happening in his school.  Nauer moved to his next point and was able to conclude his statement, but it was clear to all present that the administration did not want the board and the public to hear what Ron had to say about excessive meetings.


YouTube Link From KEA’s 5/13 Rally!

May 23, 2009

It’s Time To Be Heard! It’s Time For Change!

May 21, 2009

On Wednesday, May 27th, KEA once again calls upon its mebers to rally before the School Board meeting.  Once again, we ask that members gather in front of the KSD Administration Building at 6:30, and then enter the meeting at 7 pm to make their presence felt with the School Board.  Several KEA members are expected to speak during the public comments section of the meeting.

There are only three more Board meetings left:  May 27th and June 10th and 24th.  We especially want to have a presence at the next two meetings to keep pressure on the School Board to make better decisions about the KSD budget and spending priorities.  This is especially true with news that Dr. Grohe’s last day is June 15th! 

As our new superintendent, Dr. Vargas, begins his tenure, he needs to know that Kent Education Association members are not happy with the status quo.  We are not happy with being treated as less than the professionals we are.  We are not happy with the recent RIF’s that will cause good teachers and staff to leave our District, not to mention increase our class sizes and case loads.  We are not happy that KSD’s proposed budget cuts do not include salary reductions or reduction of top-level Administration positions, even as they RIF teachers and cut essential staffing and programs that our kids need.  We are not happy with being the lowest paid teachers in the Puget Sound region.  We are not happy with the fact that while our workload increases each year, our time to complete these tasks continues to be taken up with Administrative busy work, meetings, and other distractions.  We are not happy with the fact that the contract and state law are regularly violated by Kent School District administrators, causing countless grievances and an Unfair Labor Practice filing.   We are not happy with the District’s bargaining proposals that would further damage the relationship between the District and its employees, as well as the education of our students.  And we are not happy that the KSD has posted distorted “facts” that “compare” KEA and KSD contract proposals on their website. 

There are only a few more opportunities available before the summer to make your voices heard and your presence felt.  We need to leave the District with a clear understanding that things must change.  It is only through our collective work that things will change at the Bargaining Table.

Please plan on attending Wednesday’s rally, and bring your family, friends, and neighbors with you!

UPDATE: KSD Tries To Follow Seattle’s Act

May 16, 2009

It seems that KSD has decided to follow the Seattle School District’s nefarious efforts to bargain directly with members, bypassing the legal bargaining process.  Just one week after Seattle School District’s infamous letter to teachers that offered a reduced contract, KSD administration decided to place contract renewal forms in the mailboxes of Kent teachers and staff.  The contract offered a 181 day contract, which is one day less than the 182 day work calendar that KEA members voted on earlier this year.  This unilateral change in the contract is completely invalid. 

KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson, in response, sent out the following notice to KEA members:

The KEA bargaining team and leadership have not agreed to a 181 day work calendar for next year. The contract sent to you by the District is contrary to the negotiated and agreed upon calendar for the 2009-10 school year. HOWEVER, signing the contract does not limit you to 181 days. The number of working days MUST be bargained and in the end it the collective bargaining agreement that will determine the number of work days. 
At this time we suggest that you sign the contract by May 31 as your intent to return next school year as a requisite for the commitment stipend.

The timing of KSD’s actions become even more suspect when one considers that KEA’s leadership was in Spokane representing KEA members at the WEA Representative Assembly at the time that these contracts were distributed to members.  Additionally, the contracts came on “Black Friday”, May 15th, the same day that Washington school districts must announce all teacher and certificated staff layoffs (RIF’s). 

Expect KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson and the KEA Bargaining Team to take this up with the KSD when they return to the bargaining table on Tuesday, May 19th at Meridian Elementary.

KEA Rally May 13th

May 16, 2009
May 13th KEA Rally!

May 13th KEA Rally!












Press Coverage of KEA Rally on May 13th!

Press Coverage of KEA Rally on May 13th!

Text of KEA Members’ Speeches To School Board

May 16, 2009

You can check out the text of the speeches of some of those who spoke to the KSD School Board on May 13th by clicking on the links below.

Connie Compton Introduces KEA Bargaining Themes:  Connie schoolboard_5.13.09

Liz Jones on Time:  Liz Jones board_meeting

Tom Larsen summarizes KEA’s message to the KSD:  Larsen Message to School Board 13 May 2009

Scott Gerpen asks why KSD Administrators Salaries are not being cut, even while teachers salaries are threatened by presenting the following data:  Information shared by KEA member on Administrator Salaries

Other Voices At May 13th School Board Meeting

May 16, 2009

Following the KEA presentation at the May 13th School Board Meeting, Kentwood teacher Joey Kraves and her husband, Tighe Kraves of Kentridge High, spoke of the impact on them of being simultaneously RIF’d, and called on the District to re-examine their budget priorities.  Mattson Middle School teacher Scott Van Gerpen questioned KSD’s spending priorities by pointing out that the top 20 KSD Administrators make a combined salary of over $2 million, and yet have not taken a pay cut, as KSD had proposed for Kent teachers.   Kentwood student Allison Willis finished the comments by talking about how Kent teachers and staff were people, and therefore deserve respect.

KEA Rally on May 13th A Huge Success!

May 16, 2009

On May 13th, KEA members made their voices heard loud and clear. 

A rally was held at the KEA Administration Building that was attended by over 300 staff, students, parents, and community members who support a quality education for all students.  Though the weather was cold and rainy, those in attendance were in high spirits as KEA Vice President Connie Compton spoke of the Association’s bargaining proposals related to improving the time, workload, and compensation of KEA members.   “These proposals that we bring to the bargaining table,” Compton said, “come from what you KEA members have identified as the issues that affect you and your students.” 

Supporters chanted, “Time, Workload, Compensation!  Support A Quality Education!” as reporters from KOMO-TV, Q13-TV, and KING5-TV, as well as The Kent Reporter, covered the event.   After the brief rally, more than 250 members packed the School Board Room from wall-to-wall as a show of unity to the School Board.   The room was so full of KEA members that some audience members were even forced to sit on the floor or stand behind the Board Members.  KEA members not only showed their desire for a fair contract, but they did so with the utmost professionalism.  In fact, KSD attorney Chuck Lind commented to several KEA officers after the meeting that he, “appreciated the professionalism and respect,” shown by members in attendance.

Following Liz Jones’ discussion of Time as a major KEA issue was Maureen Atkins from Grass Lake Elementary, who recounted the overwhelming effect of the Workload KSD teachers and staff personally experience, and how that workload has prevented teachers from adequately meeting the needs of her students.  Compensation was the last bargaining theme to be illustrated by Ridgewood Elementary teacher Kris Holmquist, who clearly demonstrated why KSD’s ranking as the worst-compenssated district in the Puget Sound Region is inexcusable.  KEA’s presentation was concluded by Kentwood High School teacher Tom Larsen, who summarized the KEA comments by describing how the issues of Time, Workload, and Compensation had driven excellent Kent teachers to leave the district.  Larsen called on the School Board and KSD’s Bargaining Team to work to resolve these issues immediately.

In all, the event was viewed as a positive affirmation of KEA members unity in advocating for Time, Workload, and Compensation, which will guarantee that Kent can provide a quality education for all students.

Seattle: This Is Why We Have Unions, Folks!

May 12, 2009

It is a cornerstone of Washington state labor law that public school employees are allowed to bargain collectively with their employers, the state’s school districts.  Furthermore, school districts are specifically prohibited from even attempting to bargain directly with union members.

Did anyone (especially district staff lawyers) inform Seattle Public Schools chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson about this fact?

Last Friday, an undetermined number of SPS’ 3,300 certificated staff members received a letter with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s signature affixed to it that read in part:

“The purpose of this letter is to advise you of my determination, as Superintendent of Seattle School District, that there is probable cause to nonrenew your contract that was for 180 basic contract days plus two LID days, and to offer you an employment contract for the 2009-2010 school year for 180 basic contract days plus one LID day.”

The Seattle Education Association has denounced the Superintendent’s letter (she has since said that the letter had not been sent on Friday, but would be sent soon.  Never mind the inconvenient truth that many Seattle School District personnel had already received a copy).  SEA has further stated that it intends to file an unfair-labor practice complaint regarding what SEA considers to be Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s attempt to circumvent the bargaining process and negotiate directly with SEA’s 3,300 members.

How this will play out should be a foregone conclusion, but it’s still early yet.

One thing that you as a KEA member might keep in mind is that collective bargaining supported by collaborative member action is the most effective tool that educators have for holding districts to account when they do things like break state labor law.  Also, when you have a union to represent your interests, you are not required to make the hard decision whether or not to take an individual personal contract offered to you on a take-it-or-leave-it basis by someone whose compensation package is likely three-to-four times yours.

The notion that teachers ought to be allowed to pool their bargaining resources in pursuit of the best possible working conditions and compensation package is a time-honored one and is black letter law in both the state and federal legal codes.  Any attempt on the part of either side to circumvent a process that is built on negotiation and founded in the spirit of compromise can do nothing but breed mutual distrust.

As a wise man once said, “That way lies madness.”


Brian Thornton

KEA Executive Board Member

WEA President Responds To Seattle Crisis

May 10, 2009

As many of you have will have heard, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson of the Seattle School District mailed contract nonrenewal letters dated Friday, May 8, 2009 to every Seattle public school teacher with a continuing contract.  You can find a copy of the letter that was sent to our members here:

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s actions in sending this letter are a violation of the state’s labor laws and an unnecessary distraction from the important work our members are doing with Seattle students every day. Legally, under our collective bargaining statutes, any proposals the Superintendent may have about the number of teacher work days must be negotiated between the school district and the Seattle Education Association. The current contract states that it is a 182 day contract. SEA began negotiating a new agreement with the school district on April 20. It is unfortunate Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson decided to go outside the legal process with her “take it or leave it” position. Her actions in threatening our member’s jobs are exactly why our state has a collective bargaining law.

With 175 contracts open across the state, it’s important for all of us to remain vigilant and steadfast to bargain fair contracts of which that we can be proud. We are examining all of our options to ensure that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and the school district are held legally accountable for this action. We are consulting with our attorneys and next steps could include filing a suit against the district. SEA staff and leaders are working around the clock with support from WEA to ensure the protection of our members’ contracts and rights. In the meantime, we will keep you updated frequently as things unfold.

Mary Lindquist