District cuts off negotiations — Bargaining Update 8-14

Bargaining ground to a halt Friday afternoon when the district declared impasse and announced it is refusing to bargain until a state mediator can be called in.

The tactic surprised KEA’s bargaining team because an impasse, by its very definition, normally would mean talks have deadlocked. While KEA’s negotiators have been frustrated by the district’s repeated refusal to address the key issues facing Kent’s teachers and students, there had been a hint of progress Friday morning. The two teams had reached a tentative agreement on a proposal dealing with violent students, and KEA had offered an option that would allow the district to begin to ease workload by altering our early release / late start policy. KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett said he also had notified administrators that the Association would bring a revised proposal on class-size limits to the bargaining table next Tuesday.

“I indicated pretty clearly that we were still moving (in the negotiations) and would have modified proposals for them next week,” McNett said.

KEA emphasized to district negotiators that we do not agree that an impasse declaration was necessary at this time. KEA has offered to continue negotiating through the weekend. The district has refused. KEA offered to meet for the next scheduled negotiation on Tuesday. The district refused. KEA then offered to meet for the next scheduled negotiation date, Thursday, and the district would not commit. Administrators said they would wait for the mediator. As a procedural issue, KEA’s negotiating team agreed to not oppose the impasse request so that a mediator can be scheduled as quickly as possible by PERC, the state Public Employment Relations Commission, perhaps as early as mid-week.

KEA members will meet Aug. 26 at Kentlake High School to vote on a contract if a tentative agreement is reached, or to vote to strike if no agreement is in place. The district’s impasse declaration does not alter that timeline. It appears the district’s strategy is to now create enough delay to push negotiations to up to the brink of the vote, and then simply hope KEA members will accept whatever proposals the district has offered when the deadline arrives.

On Friday, the bargaining teams did reach one tentative agreement on a section of the contract dealing with threatening or violent students. The agreement clarifies the district’s notification requirements for staff members who are likely to come into contact with students who have been part of a serious threat or violent incident. It also now requires a written plan before those students can be readmitted to class.

Concerning the district’s late start / early release policy, KEA on Friday proposed giving teachers the authority to decide how that time could best be used to address student learning issues in their classrooms. KEA suggested simply shifting control of the days from administrators to teachers, and then holding community forums before jointly deciding whether to restructure additional early release days in 2010-11. The plan seeks to address the district’s suggestions that it couldn’t provide workload relief this year because it doesn’t have the money or enough time for community input.

“So what’s in it for us?” an administration bargainer responded. The district declined Friday to adopt the changes.

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Sharing our issues: KEA has created a Web site at http://www.kentschools.org/ to help parents and community members understand our issues and how they impact Kent’s students. Please share this Web site with your friends, neighbors and school community!

The Web site will also share stories periodically about how our contract issues impact KEA members in our classrooms. Hear what first-grade teacher Maureen Akins says about class size and a possible strike. Watch video: http://kentschools.org/video/akins/frame.html

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Upcoming dates:

No bargaining is currently scheduled.

General membership meeting 5 p.m. Aug. 26, Kentlake High School

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17 Responses to “District cuts off negotiations — Bargaining Update 8-14”

  1. Confused Says:

    Why do I get the feeling that the district wants us to take a strike authorization vote? I’ve heard from so many collegues and people within the public sector that “I shoulc be happy to have a job”, but I’m not (at least in this district).

    The district truly feels that they hold all the cards, the ecomony in a downturn, budget crisis across the state, nightly news stories about layoffs, why should they be trying to make this a better place to work?

    Until teachers start leaving the district in droves and it becomes almost impossible to find good teachers to fill the open postions the district will continue to operate as they have in the past. While we had hoped that a new “leader” would change things it doesn’t look like Dr.V has done anything about that….

    I’m so frustrated I’m not only considering leaving this district I want to move out of the district so my kids won’t go to school in this district either.

  2. theresa Says:

    Has the district bargained in good faith? I don’t think so. They send in their third tier- no one ranking higher sits at the table with our bargaining team which includes two exec board members and tireless teachers who have persevered through negotiations since April. The KSD bargainers scratch their heads and return to the administration building with our proposals and wait for responses from the parties
    “responsible.”
    Our members deserve better than that. We’ll go to mediation, but with three sessions remaining before our meeting on August 26, I can’t help but wonder why now? Do they want us to hold our general membership meeting without a contract? Why did they drag their feet and only
    hold five meetings since June? Where is the district leadership?
    It’s time to stand together more now than ever. United we bargain, divided we beg. August 26 at Kentlake High School at 5 p.m. Be there!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    We have already taken a vote authorization in our last Gen Mem meeting. The District knows this but doesn’t think we have the nerve to go through with an actual strike.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    *authorization to strike

  5. Barbara Says:

    This is ridiculous…To call for “mediation” at a point when they’ve not even addressed the issues of workload and time (yes, compensation was addresssed when they offered more money for more work)…As KEA members, we need to unite and band together. If we take a vote on the 26th, we need to send a strong message to KSD that we will not sit and take it. Enough is enough…Now is the time to send a message loud and clear we will no longer accept what is given, but stand together to get what we deserve, a fair and just contract!

  6. Camille Says:

    As I read these posts, I felt quite encouraged that many KEA members were willing to stand behind their bargaining team in order to get a fair contract. Their posts were supportive and raised some good questions as well as stating some profound observations. Most recently, I began to see some progress being made between KEA and KSD. Then, suddenly, without regard to KEA’s willingness to meet whenever and for however long to settle a contract, an impasse was called. Now, my hopes have deflated, and I am very disappointed and disgusted. My faith in KSD to become the district they were 15 years ago, has been greatly diminished.

    I am very grateful to our bargaining team, to Mike and Lisa, for what they continue to do on our behalf. I can say that the KEA members in Kent will not get most of what they deserve without a show of united support for our bargaining team. If you did not help make the pie, you cannot complain about the taste.

  7. In Disbelief Says:

    I wish there was some more emphasis on the School Board in all of this. Before Dr. Grohe retired, we thought that it was at her direction that the teachers of this district were treated the way they were. We hoped that with the arrival of Dr. Vargas, things would change, but they have not. I can only conclude, therefore, that what is happening is happening at the direction of the School Board. We don’t know what they think because everything they say is behind closed doors, but they have been actively meeting throughout negotiations and you’d bet they are not only informed, but involved. Perhaps we should start a campaign like they did in Marysville to get SUPPORTIVE people on the board who do not only give lip service to the idea of supporting teachers, but actually walk the walk. I hope the community looks at these ELECTED people and realizes what they can really do to influence “budget priorities” in Kent.

  8. CounterpointSue Says:

    This is in response to the posting by Anonymous regarding the “authorization to strike” vote in June, but I think it’s important for all of us to understand that we are in this particular place right now, partly because our own inaction put us here.

    I strongly feel that we blew it big time in June. We had the opportunity to send a powerful message to the district that if there were no settled contract by the time this one expires there WOULD be a strike. Instead, we waffled, by voting to come back for a strike authorization vote if they didn’t play nice, and the district has interpreted the vote as I was sure they would when it happened: WE WERE NOT TOTALLY SURE. WE WERE NOT PASSIONATE ENOUGH. Our membership was not clearly and decisively united in regard to supporting our bargaining team. If you were at that meeting, you heard all of the public comments and the side conversations up in the bleachers that told a lot of the real story. There was no real unity in that room. What has happened? There has been no urgency in negotiations because the district doesn’t necessarily believe that we have the you-know-whats to do this. Kent teachers have never voted to strike before. Why should they give us anything? If they hold out long enough, we’ll crumble and they’ll have us right where they want us. Hasn’t that been what’s happened before? After all this current contract is pretty weak in some respects. It didn’t just get that way without our cooperation.

    Even now, after all that has happened this summer, we have a significant number of people who plan to vote “no” on a strike vote, no matter what the district proposal is. A few of the brave souls have been willing to post that view on this website, and to those of you that have, I would like to say to you that while I disagree with you, I am so glad that you’ve shared your viewpoints, because otherwise there would be this fantasy that we all in agreement. I want to know right up front what I’m up against when I take this stand. I want to know that I may not only be taking this stand against the district, or some–or many–parents and kids, or the Puget Sound community as a whole, but also against the person who teaches across the hall from me (OK, that’s the cafeteria, but you get my point) as well.

    So, my friends…..are you angry yet? No, not disturbed, or disillusioned, or hurt. Not bewildered or nervous or insecure or confused. These are all call signs I’ve seen on this website, which is very telling. Are you ANGRY? You should be. If you’re not there, get there. You’re going to need the strength of a good old fashioned hissy fit to give you the courage to make the tough decisions you have to make. It’s easy to say what you’re going to do. It’s harder when you start adding up the costs. You’re going to need some wind beneath your sails. Frankly, this community needs to see that we are passionate about this, otherwise it’s going to be us against the whole world. If we don’t act like we believe in ourselves, why should they believe we are in the right? The community will believe people who look and sound like they are convicted in their beliefs.

    If the events of the last few weeks aren’t doing it for you, let me put it into a nutshell and see if this does it for you. This district is telling you that you aren’t SMART enough to manage your time without their help. They are telling you that you aren’t PROFESSIONAL enough to get all of your work done without big brother looking over your shoulder. They are telling you that you aren’t GOOD ENOUGH at your job, so they want to evaluate you based upon student test scores. They are telling you that you aren’t WORTH ANYTHING close to deserving appropriate pay for the job you do. Above all, throughout this process they have clearly told you: YOU AREN’T WORTH THEIR TIME TO TALK ABOUT IT AND WORK OUT THE ISSUES. Say that again, really slowly. Let it sink in.

    So, here’s the real question: Do you believe them? If you don’t, GET ANGRY.

  9. Listen Up! Says:

    We should be angry. We should be angry over the fact that teachers seem to be the only ones who truly advocate for student success. We should be angry that our working conditions often prevent us from helping our students to succeed! We should be angry that (and some of you don’t know this at all) our own colleagues who are supporting a family of four on one income (a teacher’s income) qualify for free or reduced lunch rates.

    Angry? Get there soon, because the clock is ticking my friends and we cannot afford to let this abuse continue. We owe it to the parents, to the students, to ourselves. Pain now, leads to much greater gain for all of us. Even for those admins who have a “me too” clause in their contracts! Yep, if teachers get a raise, percentage-wise, principals get a much larger raise.

  10. love 2 teach Says:

    I agree with the passion that you use when writing all of your thoughts. I can tell that you must be an amazing teacher. I am very glad that you are so passionate about these issues. However, the reality is that our country is in a SEVERE recession. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing, homes are being foreclosed on, and more people are seeking government assistance for basic necessities. Our community will not support us striking at such time of economic crisis.

    Almost 20% of the funding for our school district comes from voter passed levies. If we choose this time to strike, how do you think our levies will do? If we are truly here for the students sake then take a look around you. We have one of the lowest computers/student ratio’s in the COUNTRY. Next school year, every single one of our middle school students will have their own laptop. With continued community support, the plan is that every single student grade 7-12 will have their own laptop. Most of the monies for this program continue to be from community supported levies. As a teacher and community member I feel that the teachers deserve more but are choosing a terrible time to strike.

    As a side note, when I decided to teach I didn’t do it for the money. If I chose to go to another school district I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t be because they are going to pay me more.

    • Tom Larsen, KW Says:

      Love2Teach,

      I respect your right to an opinion, but I strongly disagree. I don’t think I could disagree more, in fact. The following may be a bit blunt. Please know that I mean no disrespect, I just want to make sure that my passion for this is clear.

      The economy is bad, but it is not affecting all people equally. This is not the Great Depression. We are not all destitute. The district is using the argument that since there is a recession, it, too, must be in financial trouble. Cuts were made, but notice that the one place that wasn’t cut was the decision makers’ own jobs. Don’t forget that the District projected that they would end the year with a significantly reduced fund balance, and instead it has grown dramatically. ($27 million currently, which is millions more than at the same time last year.)

      The RIF’s were an obvious ploy, since they laid off so many, and almost immediately “hired them” all back. Even the staff that still have lost some or all of their hours should never have been cut in the first place. We need to fight back by talking to our community members about how the District’s priorities are out of whack, and how other districts make things work with basically the same pile of cash.

      Some in the community will eventually question why the District has so much of their tax money tied up in a savings account, instead of being spent on things that actually help their kids now. Others in the community may complain or oppose us, but those are people that we will have a hard time reaching because of the simple fact that KEA does not have a full time propaganda department like the KSD does. We can’t send off letters to parents whenever we want to tell them our side of the story. That takes us teachers talking to members of the community about our realities. We have been sadly lacking in that department, but there’s still time. That’s why I tell everyone I meet about http://www.kentschools.org.

      If the economy is so bad, don’t you think it is important that teachers be paid at a rate that will allow them to pay their debts, raise a family, and keep teaching? Based on your final comment that you, “didn’t go into teaching for the money,” I assume that you have a spouse or some other source of income that allows you to live at a level you are comfortable with. I wonder if you would teach for free? Mybe just for a 50% reduction in pay and benefits? It’s for the kids! I also wonder if you are concerned about your colleagues who are not so well off, some of whom will leave teaching in their first few years because they simply can’t afford to teach and live?

      Additionally, I wonder which would help my students more: class sizes that allow teachers to spend more than one minute per student per day on average, or a laptop? I love the technology, but I’m not sure that it has been the best investment of tax dollars in Kent for kids’ education. I am guessing that you would disagree, because your comments indicate you work in the area of technology in some capacity.

      That’s understandable that you are protective about the program you work so hard on. But there’s something we all must remember in this discussion: you could remove the administrators, the support staff, the books, the computers, the desks, the cafeteria, the building, and everything else except the teacher and the students, and learning will still take place. On the other hand, keep all those other elements, but remove the teachers, and no learning would take place. Those other pieces enhance learning, but the teacher and their relationship with their students is the foundation upon which all those other pieces build upon. (PLEASE don’t think that I am saying that non-teachers are not important. I am simply stating that teachers should be a priority for KSD, not an annoying afterthought.) I believe that for some in the District’s leadership who constantly trumpet technology, they see it is a great PR campaign tool, because it doesn’t frown or talk back like teachers do when they are feeling maltreated.

      Finally, if you are concerned about the passage of future tech and operations levies, I would say that if teachers continue to be maltreated in Kent, they will not lend a hand in future levy campaigns, as they will be too busy filling out applications to other districts. NO levies would have passed in Kent without the work of KEA members. If teachers feel respected and treated as equals to their colleagues in other districts, they may be more willing to help in that campaign.

      If things continue to remain bleak, I will be voting to authorize a strike, and I will be active in helping to plan and execute the strike because I believe that if at least some of what KEA has been bargaining for is successfully added to our contract, my life will improve, my colleagues lives will improve, and my students will thereby benefit most of all.

    • Kent Mom Says:

      Frankly, I don’t care how our technology levies do. Technology is nice, but not essential. As a taxpayer in this district, I am apalled that my tax dollars went to funding a laptop for every middle-schooler when other basic needs are not being met. I know of many, many classes that don’t have enough books for the students in those classes, but those classes have SMARTboards. The illusion is that students are learning more or that they are more engaged simply by turning on the technology. In some cases students may indeed learn more, but in many other cases, the technology is nothing but expensive window-dressing. When in a recession, you cut the extras first, not the essentials. Technology and all the funding this district has devoted to it is an extra, not an essential.

      Until the priorities are set straight in this district, I will be voting against ANY technology levy. I hope that the district is not so foolish as to believe that they can say that they can’t afford to keep good teachers here for my kids and then ask me to fund laptops for some 7th grader to take home and abuse. That laptop will NEVER be a substitute for the lost teacher.

      • CounterpointSue Says:

        Kent Mom, you would be even more appalled if you knew the whole story. I gave up an hour of instructional time once a month (not for each class, but one class was checked each month) so that I could check to see if the laptops were being used properly by students. I usually issued 4-5 technology violations (in a class of around 25) to students who were playing video games on their computer instead of doing their work in class or their homework at home. Once the violation was issued, that student missed his/her elective class for 3-4 days while he/she had Think Time to reflect on what they did wrong, and then took their technology “driver’s license” again so they could get the laptop back. That’s MY class they were missing, by the way, which meant I got punished by having to come up with make up lessons for those kids. There were kids on the violations list repeatedly, which meant they missed huge amounts of instructional time in their electives classes in order to be disciplined. It was a double-edged sword; if I issued a violation I wouldn’t see the kid for almost a week, but if I didn’t, then I wasn’t administering appropriate consequences for misbehavior.

        I agree with you wholeheartedly, and support your stand, even though it probably would hurt my classroom efforts somewhat to have the technology dollars totally ripped away. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the really expensive phone system that the district bought that wasn’t a true necessity. Apparently, our regular phones weren’t good enough for some reason–but we can cut textbook money and classroom supplies budgets in order to have a telephone that we’ll use in our classrooms perhaps once or twice a day.

        These are the kinds of issues that have teachers upset with the district.

  11. CounterpointSue Says:

    I have to say that compensation is really and truly the least important reason why I am voting to strike. Of utmost concern to me is the issue of tying job evaluations to student achievement/test scores. That alone is reason to take a stick, draw a line, and tell the district they can’t go any further. The time/workload issues are huge for me. The laptops were referenced, but I don’t see that as a plus for teachers, I see it as a minus–unless we stop sending them home and keep them in each classroom for use at school only so that teachers don’t have to waste so much time with compliance checks (if you are a middle school teacher you know what I’m talking about, and if you aren’t, you have absolutely no clue how out of control this got, at least at our school.). Compensation is toward the bottom of the list for me. I could have accepted the district’s compensation proposal if it hadn’t had all of the unpalatable strings attached to it. What I will tell parents when they ask is that if the district had offered that compensation without the increase in workload and had addressed my concerns about time and performance evaluations, it would have been a deal I could have signed on to. The other stuff wouldn’t have cost the district anything. Offer me the increase without the workload, cut down the number of meetings per week, keep my evaluations based upon my actual teaching strategies in the classroom, and we have a deal.

    I’m not choosing to strike. I’ve been backed into a corner and I’m responding. I’m voting to strike. There’s a difference.

  12. I Care Says:

    I am sick and tired of people telling the community that these negotiations are only about teacher raises. Give me a break! If you cannot support Kent teachers then you haven’t been listening too well or have not taken the time to read our website on these issues.

    Like I tell my students, if you read, I promise you will learn something.

  13. Bill Bartmann Says:

    Cool site, love the info.

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