A district still focused on money and control — Update 8-21

After another long day at the bargaining table, negotiations continued to grind along on compensation-related proposals. Unfortunately, the district has yet to seriously address any of our key issues around class size and adequate time for students.

KEA’s Bargaining Team arrived at 9 a.m. Thursday to begin working with the state mediator; the district’s team arrived about an hour later. Over the next 12 hours, the most-substantive negotiations centered on pay for staff who are injured on the job, and providing stipends (comparable to the National Board incentives for teachers) for ESA specialists who have national certification in their specific fields. Tentative agreements were reached on both topics.

The upside is that negotiations are occurring and that the bargaining teams are starting to clear aside some of the second- and third-tier issues that stack up in any contract negotiation. The concern is that with only five more days before Wednesday’s contract ratification or strike vote, negotiations are still continuing to grind so slowly. Time is quickly diminishing for the district to address issues that make a real difference to students in our schools.

“The district still seems to be focusing only on the money. They did not talk about time or workload Thursday,” KEA Chief Bargainer Mike McNett noted.

While the district says it is powerless to significantly address class size because any solution would break its bank, KEA has previously pointed out that low-cost and even no-cost steps are available to begin resolving Kent’s overcrowded classes. Other districts have shifted class schedules, adjusted school boundaries or transferred a limited number of students to neighboring schools to deal with overcrowded classes. Even if those solutions aren’t always ideal, most districts recognize that the short-term inconvenience is outweighed by the long-term benefit of placing students in smaller classes with more individual attention from teachers. But class size was not part of the conversation Thursday.

Another affordable option would begin addressing teachers’ concerns over time. Administrators could simply limit the onslaught of daily administrative meetings that teachers are now required to attend.

“The district could say, ‘We will limit staff meetings to one per month,’” noted Dave Wood, a WEA staff bargainer on loan to KEA’s Bargaining Team from Edmonds EA. “It’s one of the easiest ways the district could start to resolve the time issue, and it is a zero-cost item.”

The district continues to maintain that administrators must face no restrictions on the number of meetings that they can hold. At the bargaining table, the district’s insistence on maintaining control over a limitless number of meetings has trumped the administration’s focus on the time teachers have with individual students. Too many meetings? Watch video

Tentative agreements

ESA incentive pay: The district has agreed to extend to ESAs the $5,000 stipend for national certification that already is available statewide for National Board certified teachers. The agreement spells out specific certifications that will apply for occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, nurses and psychologists. Despite KEA’s urging, the district refused to include social workers for now, arguing there currently is no comparably rigorous national certification. The district also declined to include audiologists. Kent currently has no audiologists on staff. The district declined to provide the additional $5,000 incentive for working in high-poverty schools.

L&I payments: A second tentative agreement focused on ensuring staff who are injured on the job receive full pay while they are recovering. The state’s L&I program for injured workers pays only 60 percent of your salary. KEA initially suggested that for on-the-job injuries, the district should make employees whole by paying the remaining 40 percent. The district refused. KEA compromised, saying employees should at least be able to use their sick leave to offset their 40 percent loss in income. The district responded that because employees don’t have to pay federal income taxes on the state’s L&I payments, teachers would actually make money if they could apply part of their sick leave to offset their reduced salary. That’s because they get could get a 15 to 20 percent “bonus” from tax savings since the state L&I payments are tax-free. Administrators suggested to KEA that teachers would be more likely to become injured, and would stay injured longer, because they would actually make more money via the tax savings.

After KEA’s initial shock and disbelief at the district’s viewpoint, the district realized KEA’s request is already the district’s standard practice, just not part of the formal contract. So far there is no evidence supporting the district’s contention that teachers might be causing intentional injuries to improve their tax status. The district agreed employees can use whatever fractional portion of sick leave is necessary to fill the gap between their L&I payments and their full pay.

Showing support

  • Write letters to the editor to help parents understand how our issues directly affect Kent’s classrooms and our students.
  • Please let parents and community members know about our Web site, http://www.kentschools.org/, so they can learn more about our issues.

Upcoming dates:

  • Saturday: KEA-KSD bargaining/mediation.
  • Sunday Aug. 23: 4 p.m. picnic for KEA members and their families at East Hill Park on 248th. Parking has been arranged at the Park-and-Ride lot at Kent United Methodist Church, 11010 SE 248th St. The picnic will include an update from our Bargaining Team, plus key community leaders who are showing their support for KEA members. Check your in-box for a second e-mail with an invite and RSVP so that we can get a food estimate.
  • Wednesday Aug. 26: 5 p.m., Kentlake High School. General Membership meeting to vote on a tentative contract agreement or vote to strike.

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5 Responses to “A district still focused on money and control — Update 8-21”

  1. teacher Says:

    You know, just taking away the “principal” part of TRI money and just letting us have the hours without strings attached would be HUGE and not cost them anything more. It would also help with time and workload.

  2. Love Me Some Boxes and Tape Says:

    The district’s initial response is both comical and telling. Comical in that they don’t even know their own administration’s current standard practice. Telling in that it is yet more proof that KSD does not respect its teachers. The district thought teachers would intentionally get injured or would milk the experience for “tax benefits” You’ve got to be kidding me!

    Add KSD’s initial response to KEAs L & I request to their joke offer of a “raise” offer that could be summarized as “hey, we’ll give you more money, but you have to work more! ha! ha!”

    BTW, KSD, if you’re reading this: The reason compensation is one of the core items teachers are fighting for is probably something you really won’t understand until it is too late. You see, until you actually make some real attempts to change the salary scale that is posted for everyone to access, you will not get the most highly qualified teachers even considering Kent School District as an employment option. So this means that other districts who actually have their stuff together and understand that a competitive salary by its definition helps make the KSD look competitive and attracts the best teachers. So, as you twiddle your fingers, continue to rudely ignore the KEA’s questions and give the broken record response of “NO” to everything, think about the damage you are doing to the district (and students) that you supposedly are thinking you are making decisions for. As the salary scale stands, you make it very difficult for any great teacher to justify staying in the Kent School District versus getting paid $7,000 to $10,000 more a year by going to other districts in the Puget Sound. So I ask you, KSD, what are you going to do when the brain drain begins? As the great teachers leave and your scores plummet….how are YOU going to justify your unintelligent actions to the community, and to the future of the students whom you serve?

    When will the KSD consider trusting that its teachers are professional enough to do what is best for their students? Why does KSD continue to not trust its teachers? Why does the KSD not respect its teachers?

    If these core questions are not addressed in the contract currently up for negotiation, when will teachers be able to start concentrating on what really matters…the education of their students?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Let us teach!! Let those who are in the trenches (aka classroom teachers) and know what is needed for student success, be an integral part of any decisions made in regards to curriculum adoption, job positions, and which grade level they feel comfortable and confident to teach!

    Less administration inteference will equal more student success in Kent.

    Reorganize your outside-the-classroom certs so class sizes can be reduced!!! This will NOT cost the district any money, because those people are already hired and accounted for budget-wise.

  4. teacher Says:

    Put the coaches back in the classroom, or at the very least pull groups of kids to work with. Coaches are valuable resources but if money is so tight then why not use every person available to work with kids? Some schools sacrifice librarians, counselors and tech specs (all who work with kids and provide essential support to teachers)to have coaches that don’t even work with kids. I think the coaches are great, when we have the flexibilty for them. Some buildings don’t have the benefit of having Title services/people. Those schools have NO way to lower class size or get extra intervention or relief in classrooms because there are no extra bodies.

    • Opinion Says:

      Teacher: Thanks for broaching the subject of instructional coaches. I have heard numerous complaints about these coaches from classroom teachers in Kent, Bellevue, and other districts. The idea of having an “instructional coach” is okay in THEORY, but does not work in practice. They give feedback, but is it useful? Maybe for a beginning teacher, but even then, most beginning teachers get more help from their teammates. Are coaches available to the staff? Hmm. Yeah, if they aren’t running around checking on things for the principal.

      So I suggest taking the coaches and requiring them to take on groups of students on a REGULAR basis to help alleviate the overcrowding in classrooms. I know parents would like to see their children receive more help that a classroom teacher cannot logically give, considering the size of their rosters. Either that, or eliminate those coach positions and make them into classroom teachers (what a novel idea to reduce class size).

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