Archive for June, 2009

Bargaining Update: We are not owned by the district

June 25, 2009

Kent School District leaders do not yet seem to understand the days of ignoring our members’ needs are over.

KSD and KEA negotiators returned to the bargaining table Wednesday for first time since KEA members split over whether to vote now for a strike, or to give incoming Supt. Lee Vargas the chance to break the negotiations deadlock before voting to strike this fall.

The district’s response Wednesday was not an encouraging step toward averting a strike.

Instead of addressing, or even acknowledging, the district’s own need to reform its time, workload and compensation issues, the district instead tried to bolster its authority to require even more unpaid work. In clarifying an earlier KEA proposal dealing with work outside the contract, the district argued teachers could be required to come in over the summer to pack and move between classrooms if their room or building assignment is changed. The district held onto this position even after being reminded that state law prohibits the district from requiring routine work, like room reassignments, outside the 182-day contracted work year. In unambiguous terms, the law (RCW 28A.405.240) directs that:

No certificated employee shall be required to perform duties not described in the contract unless a new supplemental contract is made, except that in an unexpected emergency the board of directors or school district administration may require the employee to perform other reasonable duties on a temporary basis.

“You don’t own me 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” one KEA bargainer reminded the district.

“You are under contract Sept. 1 to Aug. 31,” the district bargainer replied.

The district’s utter disregard for our existing contract provisions, and now it seems, state law, is at the root of our current bargaining crisis. Administrators no longer seem to grasp that they can’t just make up their own rules as they go along. Compensation is another example of just how unwilling the district seems to be to respect our staff as professionals. While our pay is the lowest in the Puget Sound region, the district’s offer Wednesday was to counter with a 4-cent-per-day increase for guest teachers — not really to boost their pay, but to smooth over a minor glitch in the district’s payroll software. The increase for teachers: Not even the same 4 cents. Zero, instead.

“We’re saddened to see that the incoming superintendent has had no visible impact on bargaining,” KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson said. “At this point, it appears the district’s strategy is either to arrogantly ignore our issues and wait for us to give in, or else to deliberately push this community to the brink of a strike in August and simply hope that we’ll give up.”

Coincidentally, that was the board’s strategy in Bellevue last fall, and it failed. Like Kent, despite a warning in June in Bellevue that a fall strike was increasingly likely, the Bellevue School Board blindly hoped that teachers would lose their resolve over the summer. Instead, Bellevue EA members stood their ground, and the district ended up losing its administrative hold on every major issue that caused the strike. Teachers won more pay, more money for health benefits and, most importantly, the strike ended the district’s strong-arm tactics to require teaching daily pre-scripted lessons in every class. But the real winners in Bellevue were students. The district could offer a more-competitive salary-and-benefits package to hire and keep great teachers. Daily classroom lessons regained the creativity and adjustments necessary for individual students that had been impossible when scripted out minute-by-minute via central office administrators.

So as Wednesday’s four-hour negotiating session drew to a close, Kent EA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett sought to clarify whether the district had any response to key KEA proposals that, like in Bellevue, will benefit kids: Less time in faculty meetings to free up more time with students. Enforceable caps on class size so students aren’t lost in the crowd. Competitive salaries so that we’re no longer 80th on the list of districts in TRI pay when teachers choose where to work.

The district’s answer?

“No.”

No meaningful progress on our issues. No willingness to address our key concerns. No respect for our classroom professionals. And now, no regard even for the state’s worker-rights laws.

What will it take for the Kent School District to understand this is not how to work as successful partners to educate our students?

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Upcoming dates:

Next bargaining session: July 9

KEA general membership meeting for contract ratification or strike vote: 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School

District can choose to bargain, or face a strike vote

June 19, 2009

KEA Bargaining Update —  June 16, 2009

It was the biggest turnout of KEA members in recent memory, and for many, in their entire careers. And as Monday’s general membership unfolded, the most intensely debated question became:

Should we vote now to strike next fall if the district does not begin to bargain fairly, or should we vote in August?

Monday’s meeting coincided with the first day our new superintendent began work, and KEA members chose the more affable approach. With no o11333ne speaking in opposition to the strike-vote motion, the message was clear: Supt. Lee Vargas can choose to hear our concerns and begin to seriously address our time, workload and compensation issues. Or he can attempt to continue the top-down, dictatorial style of former Supt. Grohe, and start the school year amid labor turmoil and a likely strike.

“I think we need to bargain in good faith on our end, and we do have a new superintendent coming in,” one member urged the crowd, adding it’s not yet time to hold a strike threat over the heads of the community. “We are united. We are ready to do what it takes — if we need to.”

“We have sent a very clear message,” another KEA member told the audience. “We are willing to give the district a chance to see what they are made of.”

But after hearing that the district’s main concession in negotiations so far was to agree to add page numbers to our contract, others were more adamant about action.

“I want (to vote today) to strike. I want to vote now,” the member told the crowd. “Do I want to come back in August to vote to strike? Hell no!”

About 700 people attended — the biggest turnout at a KEA membership meeting in years. The final 61 percent vote gives our bargaining team the authority call for a strike vote in August if the district had not yet offered a contract addressing our concerns. The vote total comes with an asterisk, however. A few moments after KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson stepped in to close debate because everyone who had lined up to speak favored the plan, another KEA member came to the mic to suggest the motion be changed to allow an immediate strike vote.

Under parliamentary rules, the request came too late, Brackin-Johnson explained. Debate had ended and people already had begun casting their ballots. But if KEA members didn’t want to wait until August, Brackin-Johnson suggested they could vote against the current motion, and if it failed, could then ask to have it reconsidered and amended with an immediate strike vote. Many members began marking their ballots “No” in an effort to force a new motion, but others complained they couldn’t change their vote to “No” because they’d already handed in their ballot. The original motion ended up garnering enough votes to pass, forestalling an immediate strike vote. The approved motion gives the KEA Bargaining Team the authority to call for a strike vote in August.

KEA’s Bargaining Team will continue to meet over summer, and KEA members will participate in additional community awareness activities in July. But the more intense action will likely begin in mid-August if it becomes clear that the district is headed for a potential strike.

Please be sure that KEA has the home e-mail address that you’ll check over the summer so we can reach you with information about crisis action and upcoming meeting dates.

Editorial In June 12 Kent Reporter

June 14, 2009

“KEA: Better education comes through better priorities in Kent”

By KEA Vice President Connie Compton and KEA Secretary Cindy Prescott

In tough economic times, how can Kent educators be concerned about the district’s spending?  Because your children won’t get a second chance at their education when the economy improves. Our community wants a great education for our children – in good times and in bad. Kent Education Association members are professional educators dedicated to quality education for every student.

Educators need time to prepare lessons, absorb training, apply skills learned, confer with colleagues, meet with parents, and complete paperwork. Most importantly, teachers need quality time to teach our students. Time matters.

Educators need a manageable workload. Students benefit from smaller classes. Some special education teachers instruct 40 students with unique needs.  Middle school teachers are asked to integrate laptops into daily lessons. High school teachers may have 35 or more students in a class. Psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists travel to several buildings, with no limits on their caseloads. Some teach in a corner or a closet. Workload matters.

Students benefit when great teachers choose to come, and stay in Kent. Teachers in Kent work as hard as colleagues in neighboring districts and deserve equitable compensation. Kent is losing top veterans. They’re leaving to work in districts that pay as much as $10,000 more, and offer a greater degree of professionalism to their staffs. The children of Kent deserve better than the lowest paid teachers in the Puget Sound region. Compensation matters.

Can Kent afford this investment? The district’s own budget data says yes. Nearby districts prove more can be done. The district spends 67% of its budget on teaching and teaching support. Neighboring districts spend up to 73%. Lake Washington employs a teacher for every 16 students; Kent has only one teacher for every 19 students.  Kent has more administrators per teacher than it has teachers per student. The district expects to end the year with nearly $20 million in the bank, which exceeds the 5% reserve policy. Taxpayers in Kent deserve to see their investment spent on Kent students.

The Kent Education Association believes it is time for the Kent School District to make children its number one priority. Improving the time, workload and compensation for educators in Kent will improve education for children. The children of Kent are as valuable as children in districts around Puget Sound. Our community deserves to see its money spent where it belongs: in the classroom. 

In tough economic times, how can Kent educators be concerned about the district’s spending? Because your children won’t get a second chance at their education when the economy improves. Our community wants a great education for our children – in good times and in bad. Kent Education Association members are professional educators dedicated to quality education for every student.

Educators need time to prepare lessons, absorb training, apply skills learned, confer with colleagues, meet with parents, and complete paperwork. Most importantly, teachers need quality time to teach our students. Time matters.

Educators need a manageable workload. Students benefit from smaller classes. Some special education teachers instruct 40 students with unique needs.  Middle school teachers are asked to integrate laptops into daily lessons. High school teachers may have 35 or more students in a class. Psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists travel to several buildings, with no limits on their caseloads. Some teach in a corner or a closet. Workload matters.

Students benefit when great teachers choose to come, and stay in Kent. Teachers in Kent work as hard as colleagues in neighboring districts and deserve equitable compensation. Kent is losing top veterans. They’re leaving to work in districts that pay as much as $10,000 more, and offer a greater degree of professionalism to their staffs. The children of Kent deserve better than the lowest paid teachers in the Puget Sound region. Compensation matters.

Can Kent afford this investment? The district’s own budget data says yes. Nearby districts prove more can be done. The district spends 67% of its budget on teaching and teaching support. Neighboring districts spend up to 73%. Lake Washington employs a teacher for every 16 students; Kent has only one teacher for every 19 students.  Kent has more administrators per teacher than it has teachers per student. The district expects to end the year with nearly $20 million in the bank, which exceeds the 5% reserve policy. Taxpayers in Kent deserve to see their investment spent on Kent students.

The Kent Education Association believes it is time for the Kent School District to make children its number one priority. Improving the time, workload and compensation for educators in Kent will improve education for children. The children of Kent are as valuable as children in districts around Puget Sound. Our community deserves to see its money spent where it belongs: in the classroom.

General Membership Agenda; New Video Link

June 12, 2009

The school year is nearly over. The district has postponed our next bargaining session and negotiations appear stalled. The district’s current offer is lose seven day’s pay or lose important contract rights for the foreseeable future. Find out what some of your peers are saying in this video*. On Monday, you can hear more details about our negotiations and share your voice in deciding what we’ll do next. Attend our General Membership Meeting on MONDAY!

KEA General Membership Meeting

5:00 6:30 p.m.,  June 15, 2009, Kent-Meridian High School Gym, 10020 SE 256th Street, Kent

AGENDA

1)     Welcome — KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson

a)     Volunteer Cards

b)     Introduction of Bargaining Team

2)     Bargaining Report UniServ Representative Mike McNett

a)     Questions & Answers

3)     Motion for Action

4)     Volunteer Cards and Adjournment

* Video note: The association server will be down for scheduled maintenance Friday night after 9 p.m. It should be back online Saturday morning. You can also see a copy on You Tube!

Important clarification: 7-day pay cut is NOT off the table. Here’s why.

June 11, 2009

At our Rep. Council meeting Wednesday, several KEA Building Reps remarked on the mistaken belief among some members that the district has dropped its plan to cut seven days pay. I realized we were not clear enough in emphasizing that the district’s proposal to restore seven Effective Education days is conditioned on KEA members agreeing with the district’s other proposals, particularly the plan to tie our evaluations to students’ test scores.

As noted in our June 3 bargaining update, the district’s offer is a package deal. It’s unacceptable: Just to get back our current pay next year, we’d have to agree to numerous other conditions. If we don’t, the district’s offer reverts to the earlier seven-day takeaway. A bold-face header tops each page of the district’s 31-page contract proposal to make that clear: The “June 2, 2009 KSD Package Proposal … is offered as a package proposal …” and part of the package is personnel evaluations based on the WASL-driven school improvement goals.

Confusion may stem from a separate letter drafted by district leaders. It’s disappointing that the district was not entirely truthful in communicating with Kent educators. Their letter omitted mentioning their own demand at the bargaining table that the seven-day pay restoration is preconditioned on using WASL scores for our evaluations.

So here’s the bottom line:

  • KEA members have made it clear to our bargaining team that student WASL scores are not a reliable measure of teacher quality and should not be used to determine our evaluations.
  • Because our members will not accept the district’s ill-conceived evaluation scheme, the district has not agreed to deliver the other half of the package to withdraw the pay cut. That means the district position reverts to its earlier plan to cut salaries by seven days next year — a $2,500 takeaway for some teachers.
  • If KEA members accept the district’s flawed package, we could actually put an eighth day of pay at risk: The Kent School Board already has ratified a 182-day calendar next year — including an August LID day cut by the state — but district bargainers now mistakenly suggest that day is available to be renegotiated.
  • Supt. Grohe is still talking about layoffs, but using pay for Effective Education days as a tool to link evaluations to WASL scores shows that Kent’s financial position is stronger than she suggests. Indeed, the district now concedes it will end the year with nearly $20 million in the bank, just as WEA’s budget analyst predicted last winter.
  • Cutting our pay is not required because of tough economic times: The district’s package deal makes it clear our pay could be restored with a stroke of Grohe’s pen. Instead, it’s a deliberate strategy to exploit the current economic hard times to force concessions in our evaluation policy — and to freeze Kent’s already dismally low wages as the economy recovers, with no solution for our workload and class-size concerns.

The KEA Bargaining Team will continue to reject the district’s takeaways. The team’s strength is based on our continuing unity and support.

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New Videos Promote 5/15 KEA Membership Meeting

June 10, 2009

Watch these clips of two KEA members as they explain why they feel it is important for you to be a part of the KEA General Membership meeting on Monday, June 15th, at 5:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held in the Kent-Meridian High School Gym.  Talk with your building rep for more details.

Michael: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wBaRjGkj6g

Camille: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8TJ57VEGJg

Kim McKeever’s Speech to the School Board (5-27-09)

June 5, 2009

Former Kent teacher Kim McKeever told the Kent School Board why she left this district during the public forum portion of their May 27th meeting.  McKeever, a National Board certified teacher, is now employed by the Lake Washington School District.  Here is what she said:

I taught in the Kent School District for 10 years – most of my teaching career. During that time I have watched employees in this district become more and more frustrated, exhausted and demoralized; a place where the power resides in the central office and the people who have the greatest impact on our student’s education have no say. I have always been actively involved in my school. I considered my school to be the greatest place to work even as things got progressively worse for teachers around the district. Three years ago I joined the KEA bargaining team to try to bring another voice to the table on behalf of my peers and my students. During the time that I spent on the bargaining team I was amazed at the contempt some of the district administration had for teachers and the work that we do, and more importantly, the lack of knowledge of what we do. For them, the bargaining table wasn’t a place to come together and work out a contract that would be in the best interest of our students. Instead I sat across from people who viewed teachers with contempt and would respond to our offers with childish counteroffers that were meant to punish – not find common ground. Those two years were the most stressful of my teaching career, because I knew I was not, and never would be, supported by my district. For the district administration, it wasn’t about what was in the best interest of students – it was about winning. It was during a bargaining session in the summer of 2008 that a list was passed out showing where Kent ranked among other districts in teacher compensation. At the time, Kent ranked 3rd from the bottom. I believe you are even lower now. It piqued my interest enough to see what was out there. So I got online and began following the top district’s employment page. A job opened in a school district very similar in size to Kent – the difference was they were in the top 4 of teacher compensation. I applied for, and was offered a job within a week. Just by moving districts, my pay increased by $10,000 – FOR DOING THE SAME JOB! Most importantly, there is a mutual respect between the district administration and the union. Every decision that is made is done so based on whether or not it is in the best interest of our students. Teachers are honored for what they do every day with the understanding that education is not static. It is fluid and constantly moving forward. Teachers are expected to work hard and continue to grow in their profession, but they are properly compensated for doing so. Unlike Kent, I now work in an environment that is positive, not punitive. Up until now I had never worked outside of the Kent School District. I now realize that it is possible for the staff and administration to have a positive relationship. I am Nationally Board certified, an adjunct professor, a Fulbright scholar, my students repeatedly placed in the top 5 for state History Day, repeatedly participated in and received special recognition in VisFest, I was recognized by my PTSA for Excellence in Teaching, I was a coach, and afterschool advisor for numerous clubs – I cared deeply for my students and hated to leave, but I couldn’t work for the Kent School district anymore. You lost a good teacher, and you will continue to lose teachers like me in droves if you don’t provide adequate compensation, and learn that the ultimate goal is what’s best for our kids.

Kent and Seattle Featured in WEA Video

June 5, 2009

http://www.washingtonea.org/static_content/video/09/sea/frame.html

From Bad to …Bad

June 3, 2009

KEA’s bargaining team met with district bargainers Tuesday and the outlook remains grim.

The good news – and that’s a charitable description – is that administrators pulled one of their most heinous suggestions off the table, officially ending their demand to roll back our already dismal salaries by paying us for seven fewer days. The bad news: the district is now demanding to freeze our pay while continuing to freeze or dismantle other contract provisions and ensuing administrators remain free to continue to increase our workload.

The district’s plan to cut pay was a non-starter at bargaining table and never would have been seriously entertained by our bargaining team. But administrators tried to frame Tuesday’s withdrawal of their proposal as a significant concession that should be rewarded by our acceptance of a slew of other bad proposals.

In exchange for the prize of a pay freeze, the district is insisting on a package deal that includes linking our evaluations to School Improvement Plans and student WASL scores. Additionally, the district rejected all major Association proposals related to Time, Workload, and Compensation. The district rejected limits on class size and case load. The district rejected limits on faculty meetings. The district rejected expansion of Early Release/Late Start. The district rejected clear layoff language. And the district rejected equal pay and national board recognition for our ESA members.

Even in withdrawing their salary rollback, we still manage to move backward. Instituting a pay freeze will lock Kent teachers in the cellar for area salaries. Even Tahoma will get a small raise next year, leaving Kent solidly in last place in compensation

Rejected, neglected but certainly not dejected

While the administration’s vocabulary was essentially limited to a single word — No — KEA bargaining team members were positively effusive. We explained research showing that class size is one of the few variables that districts can actually control to improve student learning. We reminded administrators that students are individuals who do not all have the same skills and needs, and that some students need more time and help. We shared research detailing how successful “professional learning communities” require an actual investment of employee time. Seemingly, if our proposal is good for students, the district’s answer Tuesday was no. If it is good for staff, the district’s answer was no. If our proposal costs money, the district’s answer was no. If our proposal could be adopted without cost, the district’s answer was … that’s right: No.

So what can we do?

Remind the district that our contract proposals grew from three years of listening to our members. Show unity at every opportunity and remind the district that KEA members are standing together to do what’s right. Most importantly, come to the KEA General Membership meeting at 5 p.m. June 15 at Kent-Meridian High School. We’ll provide a detailed assessment of where we’re at, and talk about the steps we’re willing to take to win a fair contract. The end of the school year is near, but our voice is being blatantly ignored in negotiations. We can give up, or we can stand up. Join us June 15 to decide the shape of our future.

Give your Building Reps a hand!

KEA reps are talking with all members to make sure we have current home e-mail address and phone numbers, and to do a quick pulse check of how you’re feeling about our current stalemate in negotiations. If your Building Reps haven’t yet contacted you, please find them so that our information is accurate.