Bargaining Update: We are not owned by the district

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

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4 Responses to “Bargaining Update: We are not owned by the district”

  1. Disgusted Says:

    I cannot believe the arrogance of KSD. WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY!!!!!!!!!! Yet they are treating the KEA like WE are the ones out to destroy education. Instead, THEY are the ones driving out wonderful teachers who think for themselves and for their students. No self respecting human being would stay and be treated like this. They had better change their tune or they are really going to regret their actions when we stand up for our students and ourselves.

  2. Voice of Reason Says:

    I am a self respecting human being, and yes, it’s difficult to learn that the very people who should be working alongside teachers, have a malicious motive in mind–I have several theories of what that motive is too. However, I have stayed and intend to stay, to make sure Kent students and teachers ARE treated with respect.

    KSD wants us to go on strike. They are daring us to do so. Why? We should be asking that question. If it’s our only resort (to go on strike), to get what we need as educators, then so be it.

  3. Are you Freakin' Kidding Me, KSD? Says:

    This district has alot of vindictive principals, unnecessary positions within the schools, and lack of teacher support when it comes to paraeducators’ time inside the classroom.

    My principal said this District’s philosophy is to run their schools like a business. OMG! Are you kidding me?? Kids are not commodities!

    It’s time we get our parents and the community to rally around us in our efforts to educate this bunch of paper pushers and arrogant white collar bureaucrats!! Contact your local PTA representative. I am doing that as we speak.

  4. Much Wiser Now Says:

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

    I’ll tell you what it will take:
    1. Every KEA member to grow a backbone and to stop giving so much unpaid overtime.
    2. Every KEA member to become educated about the District’s tricks. Here is one of KSD’s tricks: “Your union is spinning things and their info is wrong.” C’mon! If you have any intelligence, you won’t believe the District on that one! Egads.
    3. The outside-the-classroom-certificated-KEA members to stand up with the rest of us!
    4. To attend the KEA events–afterall, if you follow our contract, you reap the benefits of a strong contract too.

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