Archive for August, 2009

Strike So Far: KEA Blogger’s Reflection

August 31, 2009

As you might well imagine, KEA’s Blog has been extremely busy in the last few days .  The number of hits on the blog and comments each day have been absolutely overwhelming.  On the one hand, we love that because it means that the blog is one way for KEA to get its message out and for all interested parties to have a voice in this very important discussion about the future of education in Kent.  On the other hand, it also means that running this blog has become a much more difficult task. I thought this was a good time to stop and reflect on how things are going.

After talking to many community members and KEA members on the picket line, as well as after a lot of personal reflection while reading the comments by readers for us, against us, or somewhere in the middle, I have to tell you all that this Blog is going well, but I think it can be better.  In the last few days as the debate has become more fierce, the comments have become a bit too nasty and too personal.  I, too, have been prone to respond emotionally to some of the comments on this blog, especially the ones that are especially vitriolic, uninformed, or simply inflammatory.  Mea culpa, I’m only human.  So are all of you. 

As a result, please know that I plan to redouble my efforts to make this a place where KEA can share its point of view, and allow both its members and the larger community to discuss the key issues affecting the Kent School District.  We want to use the blog to spread facts and to squash misinformation, propaganda, and rumors.  We want people to express how they view the state of education in Kent, and how the strike is affecting them.   To do this, we need to be mindful of a few things:

First, we need to refrain from name calling and personal attacks as much as possible.   For example, if you believe someone is lying, point out what you believe to be the lie, and give proof  or facts if you can.  If you have no proof, raise questions.  While I cannot filter every comment to protect everyone, I will be deleting any comments that are blatantly profane or personal in nature.  It is appropriate to call into question the actions and decisions of those in positions of leadership and power on both sides, but try to keep your comments civil.  I cannot and will not promise to protect everyone’s feelings.  Get over it.

Second, I will try to butt out of conversations, except if someone’s facts or comments are blatantly wrong or if valid questions are raised that I can answer.   The readership has been doing a good job of monitoring each other’s facts and responding to claims that are erroneous. 

Finally, I will do my best to update the blog more often with topics of interest– especially in response to issues raised by members or issues raised by the readership.  Please know that while several people post to this blog, I am the one who ultimately runs it on a day-to-day basis.   There are only so many hours in the day, so I can’t promise the level or amount of writing of say, The Kent Distorter Reporter.  (See that, I’m already calling people names.)

I hope that you continue to read and (possibly) enjoy the blog.  It has been both wonderful and enfuriating to keep it going, but I think it is worthwhile.  I admire the passion that everyone has, and look forward to what you all will write next.

Cheers,

 

Your KEA Blogger

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Answers To Your Questions: Who’s Bargaining?

August 31, 2009

Many members’ questions are coming up on the picket line.  We will try to answer some of them on the blog as they come up.  The following is a list of the current members of both the KEA and KSD Bargaining Teams.  I have tried to put a title or link them to a specific job or worksite as best I can.  If I get any info wrong, I apologize ahead of time.

Kent School District Bargaining Team

  • Larry Miner, Asst. Sup. of Human Resources
  • Dave Alfred, Outside Negotiator
  • Chuck Lind, KSD Attorney
  • Dave Bileau, CTE Director
  • Mike Albrecht, Principal of Kentridge High School
  • Anthony Brown, Principal of Mill Creek Middle School
  • Stan Jaskot, Principal of Meridian Elementary School
  • John Knutsen, KSD Finance Dept.
  • JoEllen Verdo, Assistant to Larry Miner
  • Lynn Stellick, Human Resources Dept.

Kent Education Association Bargaining Team

  • Mike McNett, Kent UniServ Representative/Chief Negotiator
  • Connie Compton, KEA Vice President
  • Dave Wood, Cascade UniServ Representative/Backup Negotiator
  • Andrea Hardy, WEA Researcher
  • Cindy Prescott, KEA Secretary/Treasurer
  • Carol Thiemens, Teacher at Scenic Hill Elementary
  • Steve Marques, Teacher at Kentridge High School (Retired)
  • Ron Nauer, Teacher at Meeker Middle School
  • Kim Savisky, Teacher at Mill Creek Middle School

Music slide show of 1500 KEA Members in front of the School District as shown at the Candle Light Vigil on Aug 30th

August 31, 2009

No School Monday in Kent

August 30, 2009

Kent teachers are saddened to announce that no tentative contract agreement is in place. The district continues to refuse to meaningfully negotiate solutions to the issues that sparked this strike: over-crowed classes and too many administrative meetings that rob our teachers’ time with students. As a result, we have no contract on which to vote, and KEA will NOT meet this afternoon for a general membership meeting.

KEA will instead proceed with our alternate plan, a downtown candlelight vigil on the eve of the scheduled start of classes.

KEA members will gather Sunday night for an 8 p.m. vigil acknowledging our disappointment that the district has not yet addressed our key issues. The vigil, marking our hopes for a speedy and adequate contract settlement, will be on the plaza outside ShoWare Center, 625 West James. Parking is either at the ShoWare Center parking lot or the Park and Ride across the street.

The vigil is scheduled from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the parking lot officially opens at 7 p.m. Note: It’s BYOC! Please bring your own candle with a small paper cup for a wind screen and to catch drips. (We’ll bring some extras, but not nearly enough for everyone.) The more who attend the merrier — KEA families, supporters and community members are welcome!

Overcrowded classes and endless staff meetings are important issues that are harming our students, and the district will need to address them before our contract can be settled. We hope they choose to do it sooner rather than later.
Where’s Vargas? What happened to the leadership in Kent Schools? Each day of School Board procrastination will now cause one more day’s delay to the start of school.

Picketing will resume at individual schools across Kent Monday morning.

Candlelight vigil is at ShoWare Center (not earlier park location)

August 29, 2009

It is looking increasingly unlikely that a tentative contract agreement will be in place Sunday in time for an afternoon KEA contract ratification meeting. Check back for an update after 12 noon at our blog or the e-mail account where you get your bargaining updates. IMPORTANT NOTE: If no agreement is reached by midday, no meeting will be held at Kentlake Sunday afternoon. KEA will instead proceed with our alternate plan, a downtown candlelight vigil.

On the eve of the scheduled start of classes, KEA members will gather Sunday night for an 8 p.m. vigil acknowledging our disappointment that the district has not yet addressed our key issues of overcrowded classes and too many meetings. The vigil, marking our hopes for a speedy and adequate contract settlement, will be on the plaza outside ShoWare Center, 625 West James. Parking is either at the ShoWare Center parking lot or the Park and Ride across the street.

The vigil is scheduled from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the parking lot officially opens at 7 p.m. Note: It’s BYOC! Please bring your own candle with a small paper cup for a wind screen and to catch drips. (We’ll bring some extras, but not nearly enough for everyone.) The more who attend the merrier — KEA families, supporters and community members are welcome!

Negotiators from KEA met all day Saturday and will return to the bargaining table Sunday morning. The district’s proposals continue to offer relatively meaningless changes, similar to what was described in the On The Line negotiations update Friday (i.e., the district agrees to limit “meetings,” but we just won’t consider all the other gatherings meetings any more.) Apparently the Kent School Board does not yet understand the resolve demonstrated by our overwhelming, 1,500-member turnout at our strike vote, or the more than 1,500 members who lined the sidewalks outside the administration building Friday. Overcrowded classes and endless staff meetings are important issues that are harming our students, and the district will need to address them before our contract can be settled. We hope they choose to do it sooner rather than later.

Where’s Vargas? Each day of School Board procrastination will now cause one more day’s delay to the start of school.

Talks Continue, KEA Members Show Strength

August 29, 2009

Despite the fact that Friday was not a scheduled work day, over 1,300 KEA members, supporters, and their families converged on the Kent School District Administrative Offices from 11am – 1pm on Friday to show their collective strength and resolve during this difficult time.  Holding signs and waving at supporters in passing cars, they sent a powerful message to the District that they demand their voices be heard, and this strike be resolved at the bargaining table.  “I really want this thing to be over so I can get to work helping kids, but we can’t do that until the District realizes that our issues are important and must be addressed now,” said one teacher, “Let’s hope they get the message.”  This sentiment was expressed across the picket line Friday.

Talks continued Friday and Saturday between the KEA and KSD, but no major developments have occured thus far.  If no agreement is reached by noon Sunday, KEA will not be able to gather members together to vote on any tentative settlement.  As a result, school would not start on Monday as scheduled. 

In the event that the noon deadline passes without a tentative agreement, KEA members will gather at 8pm on Sunday evening at the ShoWare Center in Kent for a Candlelight Vigil.  KEA members and others who wish to show their support are asked to bring their own candles and carpool to the event.  (PLEASE NOTE THE LOCATION CHANGE TO ShoWare Center!) 

Additionally, KEA members will report to their regular work locations Monday morning to resume picketing if no agreement is reached.

From The Picket Line: Kent Community Shows Support For Kent Teachers

August 27, 2009

After our first day of walking the picket line, stories of widespread community support for Kent teachers and staff have been spreading across the district.  Although some community members did show opposition to the strike, the vast majority seem to be supporting KEA teachers and their demands to improve learning in Kent.   Community members seem to support the idea that a fair and speedy resolution to this strike needs to happen soon.

We ask that teachers and community members comment on this post with examples of community support and generosity seen on the picket line.

Kent votes to strike

August 26, 2009

With approximately 1500 of 1800 members in attendance at Wednesday’s General Membership Meeting, 86.4% of KEA members in attendance cast a vote to authorize a strike against the Kent School District.  Less than 200 members voted no.  This is the first strike in the history of the Kent School District, Washington’s 4th largest district.  The meeting included a lengthy discussion by KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson and KEA Chief Negotiator Mike McNett on the current status of bargaining proposals and a question and answer period held prior to the strike vote. 

The strike announcement was the lead story on both the KONG and Q-13 Fox newscasts at 10 pm.  Many KEA members interviewed by various media outlets highlighted the key reasons for the strike, including the issues of time, workload (esp. class size), and compensation, as well as the idea of a lack of respect by the District towards KEA members’ needs.   It was also reiterated time and again that compensation, while important is not the key issue driving this strike vote for most KEA members.  Rather, it was a belief that the focus of the Kent School District’s  time and money currently is not where it should be:  on classroom instruction and students.  

Members should meet at their worksite on Thursday, and expect to picket during their contracted day.  Contact the designated picket captain or captains at your local building with questions or concerns.  We ask that anyone interested in finding out about the current issues that have caused this historic strikc vote refer to www.kentschools.org for more information. 

It is the sincere hope of the members of the Kent Education Association that tonight’s strike vote will send a clear message to the Kent School District’s leadership, including Superintendent Vargas and the School Board, that Kent teachers and certificated staff demand immediate and real solutions to our issues for the benefit of not only ourselves, but more importantly, our students.   We hope that this vote will cause the Kent School District to realize that they can no longer disrespect teachers by refusing to bargain in a true spirit of good faith and compromise.  Kent teachers and staff look forward to a speedy and fair resolution to this crisis so that we can get back to the students that we care so deeply for.

No Tenatative Agreement in Sight

August 26, 2009

KEA members should come to the General Membership meeting tonight, 5 p.m., Kentlake High School, to hear the latest bargaining update and to vote on our next action. No tentative agreement for a new contract is in sight. On Tuesday, district negotiators told the KEA Bargaining Team they didn’t want to talk about, or even reply to, several key issues of our members.

Negotiations by the Numbers:

27,000: Kent students in overcrowded classrooms
1,800: teachers and specialists who want to make a difference
126: days since negotiations began
24/7: KEA’s willingness to negotiate
18: days the district has been willing to negotiate
0: Plans from the district to provide an immediate or long-term solution to overcrowded classes
0: Recognition that workload must be addressed seriously before we have a settlement
0: Willingness by the district to hear and understand, even on the last day of bargaining, that teachers will stand up for issues that impact our classrooms and our students.

Answers to your strike questions

August 25, 2009

When will we know that there is a strike or not?

  • KEA members will meet at the General Membership Meeting on Wednesday, Aug 26th at 5 pm at Kentlake High School.  At that point, an update on bargaining will be presented, and either teachers will vote to authorize a strike or to accept a tentative agreement, if one is reached.   As of 8/24, it seemed unlikely that an agreement between the KSD and KEA would be reached before Wednesday’s meeting.
  • Please encourage all KEA members to attend this important meeting.  The meeting is for KEA members only.

What is a teachers’ strike?

  • A strike is a long-accepted concerted withholding of our services as a means to bring pressure for a favorable settlement of our collective bargaining agreement with the district.  Statewide, more than 60 have occured since the first in Aberdeen in 1972.  The shortest was half a day, and the longest was the 50 day Marysville strike in 2003.

Aren’t teachers’ strikes illegal?

  • While state law does say that some categories of state employees are prohibited from striking, no such clause exists under the section for teachers.  The state legislature has had several proposed bills over the years  that would make teachers’ strikes illegal, but the legislature chose not to pass them. Precedents in case law from the courts are inconclusive on the issue as well, and mainly come from the period before teachers’ unions were active in Washington beginning in the 1970’s.  In cases where teachers have been ordered back to work, Districts have argued not on the legality of strikes, but on the impact on learning.  Since the law is silent on the issue, strikes are legal.

Can we be fired for striking? 

  • While theoretically this is possible, it is not possible that the district will fire nearly 1,800 KEA members and claim that it helps education in Kent.
  • No teacher in Washington has ever been fired for going on strike, and the Association would vigorously challenge any attempt to do so.  The district must also treat all employees equally, so highly visible strike participants are protected in all strike activities.

Would we make up the days we miss?

  • State law requires that districts complete their full 180 student day school year unless a waiver is sought.  The first day of a potential KEA strike falls on a “Learning Improvement Day”, which is a non-student day.   Almost all school districts have completed the full school year, so you can expect that any days lost will be made up, and therefore, you will earn your full year’s salary.  The bargaining teams would need to resolve when these days would be made up as they finalize a revised 2009-10 calendar.

If we go on strike, what will happen to my pay and benefits?

  • If Kent goes on strike, everyone who worked last year in Kent or other Districts should be paid through the end of August (last year’s contract).  The next payday is September 30th.  Depending on the length of the strike, some or all of that paycheck may be paid out at that time.  These issues are worked out during bargaining.  Coverage for all plans continues if the premiums are paid.  For those who taught in another district last year, your insurance should be paid through Sept 30th with your August paycheck through your former district.  If you taught in Kent, your benefits will also be dependent on the length of the strike and what is agreed upon at the bargaining table.  The WEA will work with KEA and your insurance companies to extend benefits during strike periods.

If we are on strike, can I still go back to my classroom?

  • No.  You should arrange to get any personal items out of your classroom before August 27th, which would be the first day of a strike.

How do strikes end?

  • Strikes end when we vote to go back to work.  Ordinarily, they end when our bargaining team brings us a tentative agreement they believe is acceptable to the membership.  As a group, we vote on it and, if accepted, the stike ends and we go back to work.
  • Part of the settlement will include a revised calendar that allows a full school year for Kent students.  It will likely result in a later ending date for school, but that is a small price to pay for a strong contract.

Aren’t teachers’ strikes illegal?

  • While state law does say that some categories of state employees are prohibited from striking, no such clause exists under the section for teachers.  The state legislature has had several proposed bills over the year  that would make teachers’ strikes illegal, but the legislature chose not to pass these bills. Case law from the courts is inconclusive on the issue, and mainly comes from the period before teachers’ unions were active in Washington beginning in the 1970’s.  Since the law is silent on the issue, strikes are legal.