Archive for the ‘Strike’ Category

Spread the Word!

February 8, 2010

OK, folks, it is time to spread the word!  We are short of readers, despite the fact that some important and perhaps even enraging info has been presented on this blog in the past few weeks.  That’s why we’re asking you to spread the word to your colleagues, community members, etc. to check out the blog and comment when they see fit.  Ask your Building Rep to forward our blog address to the members in their buildings.  Remember, the blog can only be accessed from home computers.   Cut and paste our URL and send it to your friends! 

It is time we wake up the Kent community to the fact that the problems didn’t go away when the strike ended.

Thanks!

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Dr Vargas Ignores Teacher Workload

February 7, 2010

The following was sent from a member of the Crestwood Elementary staff.  We believe it is illustrative of the current relationship between KSD’s Superintendent Dr. Lee Vargas and the teachers and staff of Kent:

Well, the meeting at Crestwood on Friday morning with our new superintendent was VERY interesting. First of all, the day before the meeting, our KEA Rep sent the staff the KSD Action Plan, including what the district plans for SpEd inclusion, ELL push in, and Tiered intervention. From that discussion we found out that KEA wouldn’t even know about what was coming down the pike, but for their attendance at board meetings. The staff was shocked and upset.

The meeting began.  He talked for about 10 minutes about why we have to fix the achievement gap. Then he took questions. Our KEA Rep’s question was, “In the Preliminary Action Plan that the school board has already approved, you want to implement SpEd inclusion, ELL push-in, and Tiered Intervention in the core classroom. Since workload was arguably the most important issue in our recent strike, how do you plan to implement these changes without further impacting our workload?”

And he was off to the races, telling what these programs were and why they were good. He NEVER touched the issue of workload. He proceeded to not answer anyone else’s question, either. The other questions were about what kind of support we could expect in the classroom next year, about Crestwood’s difficulty with projections (when we learned our principal has the figures and hasn’t shared them with us), ELL programs looking different from building to building and about the perception of the parents of kids who are at the top end about including children who need much help without the support, so their children go by the wayside. He honestly didn’t answer any question that was asked.

The meeting went right up to the bell. Some that could, stayed after. The whole building was buzzing afterward and the entire day long! NO ONE was impressed with him – all saw through his circular talk. I am feeling like feelings of dissatisfaction among staff are right under the surface. It makes me feel hopeful that KEA can organize in response to this Action Plan.

KEA Strike Leadership Meets To Reflect

January 3, 2010

About 30 KEA members  met at the WEA Offices on Nov 21 to debrief on the strike and plot the future for KEA and its members.  Strike picket captains and organizers, along with KEA’s elected leaders and WEA staff discussed the positive and negative experiences related to the strike.   Among the issues of concern raised at the meeting were the division in some buildings between members who chose to cross the picket line and those who did not, how to communicate better with the membership, how to avoid losing focus or momentum, and many other topics.  KEA’s leadership plans on moving forward with several ongoing grievances and arbitration hearings in the works, while the Bargaining Support and Organization Team will work on several goals, including improving communications with members, providing useful services to members, improving KEA’s profile in the community, and continuing to monitor the KSD School Board.

The Bargaining Support and Organization Team meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 4-6 pm at the KEA offices.  We encourage all members who want to make a difference in improving education in Kent to attend.

Letter to KEA Reporter

November 3, 2009

The following letter was published in the Saturday, Oct 31, 2009 edition of the Kent Reporter.  It was written by KEA Secretary-Treasurer Cindy Prescott, who is both a teacher and a taxpayer in the District.

October 26, 2009

To the Editor:

Last week, I attended the debate between the Kent mayoral candidates that this newspaper sponsored. Since Mr. Berrios is at the helm of the Kent School Board as its president, a question about the Kent teachers strike was asked. The question concerned whether there was a lack of transparency in the cancellation of a school board meeting during the strike. In response, Jim answered, paraphrasing, “I would answer that you just don’t know Jim Berrios.” He went on to detail conversations he had with teachers during the strike, inferring that he did his best to resolve the dispute quickly. Additionally, Mr. Berrios indicated that he has been “fiscally responsible” during his tenure on the school board.

As a teacher and a voter, I ask Mr. Berrios to think about how he could have used his position and influence to avoid this strike entirely, or at best, to resolve it well before almost three weeks had gone by. It is of some note that the Kent teachers have not gone on strike in thirty years. Furthermore, it is interesting to realize that Mr. Berrios’ “fiscal responsibility” has resulted in a district that has some of the highest class sizes in the Puget Sound (even after the new contract was negotiated) and has significant trouble retaining the very best and brightest teachers because pay is lower than in many surrounding districts (yes, even after the negotiations were finished.) Ending the year with a larger fund balance than the previous year, it would seem the Board’s spending priorities are suspect.

Recently, Mr. Berrios requested that Mayor Suzette Cook be more transparent in her budget figures. In my opinion, Mr. Berrios has been less than transparent, himself, in explaining to the citizens of Kent the part he played in causing teachers in this district to feel they had no recourse but to go on strike.

Cindy Prescott

 

Contract Ratified, Teachers Head Back To School

September 15, 2009

With over 1300 members in attendance voting 94% in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement reached Sunday, KEA members overwhelmingly chose to end their 2009 strike.  While the end result did not provide everything KEA members had hoped for, it did provide some additional help in relieving class size and caseload issues, as well as bringing at least some compensation relief through additional paid Effective Education days.  Unfortunately, many KEA members were disappointed that Psychologists, Music, and Physical Education teachers were not included in the class size case load proposals adopted, and class size caps in the Middle and High School levels were not agreed to.  Given the slow pace of bargaining, the KEA Bargaining Team came to the conclusion with much regret that the KSD would not agree to these issues at this time. 

So what happens next?  KEA members have returned to work as of Monday, September 14th to set up their classrooms, and school began on Tuesday, September 15th.  KEA members who have not yet worked the additional 7.5 hours of classroom prep time should complete those hours and turn in a time sheet by September 30th.  Additionally, the revised calendar for the 2009-10 school year still needs to be agreed upon by both sides.  Both the revised calendar, as well as the new version of the contract will be made available soon.

This is not the end of the book, just the end of a chapter.  The movement for change in Kent still has a long way to go.  If you are interested in helping shape the future of the Kent School District, please notify your Building Rep. of your willingness to help out with future KEA committees and activities.

Tentative Agreement Reached, Meeting Monday

September 13, 2009

A tentative agreement was reached at about 7 pm on Sunday night.   There are absolutely no details about the agreement at this point.  Anything you hear is simply rumor, and should be dismissed as such.

There will be a General Membership Meeting on Monday, Sept. 14th at 8 am.  The meeting will be once again at Kentlake High School.  As you may remember from the last meeting held at that location, parking is at a premium.  If you can carpool, it would be appreciated. 

At the meeting, members will hear details of the tentative agreement, and then will vote to either ratify the tentative agreement, or reject the agreement. 

It has not yet been confirmed when school will begin for teachers or students.  As soon as those details are known, I will post them here.  Again, if you hear a rumor, disregard it until you hear the official word.

See all KEA members at Kentlake at 8 am tomorrow!

Nothing To Talk About?

September 13, 2009

That’s what the Kent School District told a parent when asked why they recently cancelled a school board meeting.  Rather than “Successfully Preparing Students for Their Future,” perhaps the Kent School District should alter their mission statement to “Nothing to Talk About.”   Fittingly, that has been and continues to be their governing philosophy regarding their negotiations with Kent teachers.  Why?  Here are a few pieces to think about:

  • Kent teachers asked for class size caps that are equitable with comparable districts in our area.  The school district instead ignored that request and went on the news explaining that their class sizes are equitable with neighboring districts.  If that is correct, why won’t KSD use the same contractual language that those neighboring districts have?  Instead, it seems more like they care about retaining their power than doing anything that could benefit students.  Nothing to talk about?
  •  Kent teachers asked the district to more efficiently use their time with meetings.  Some schools dealt with up to four 30 minute meetings a week resulting in over 2 hours of meeting time.  The district proposed a compromise that made the limit two hour long meetings a week… Wait.  Isn’t that the same thing?  Once again, the district is telling the public that they are working to get kids back in school but instead it seems like they are stonewalling the teachers.   Nothing to talk about?
  • Kent teachers asked the district to increase compensation to move us from the bottom of local school districts to begin to become competitive with our competition.  Since then, Kent teachers have lowered their demands significantly to ease the district supposed money woes.  In the end, the KSD offered a 4.5% raise in pay over the next two years.  Unfortunately, when examining the logistics of their offer, it isn’t a raise. It is actually 5 extra days of work.  Wouldn’t it be cheaper for the district to simply give the teachers a 4.5% raise for the work they already do?  Sadly, it seems that the district is not really negotiating but dictating.  Nothing to talk about?

The district is cancelling school board meetings because they believe there is nothing to talk about.  Call the superintendent at 253-373-7701 and tell him there are many things to talk about.

Bargaining Update For Saturday, Sept. 12

September 12, 2009

Should we stay or should we go?
That’s the question that each of us is asking ourselves as Monday’s deadline looms to return to class.
The district is counting on you to go across picket lines, to go against all your days on the line standing up for smaller classes, to go quietly back behind your classroom doors so they can continue to dominate and intimidate.
The district is consistent. From the first day of bargaining last April, district administrators have misread our resolve.
They didn’t believe we would rise up when they announced they were taking away seven days’ pay and linking our evaluations to WASL scores.
They predicted we wouldn’t have the unity to strike even when they told us budget cuts meant they wouldn’t deal with class sizes for years to come.
They suggested to local reporters that our picket lines would collapse a few days into the strike.
They thought we’d crumble in fear instead of storming the room to protest when Supt. Vargas announced he would haul his own teachers into court.
They thought they could manipulate the courts to end a strike that must instead be resolved at the bargaining table.
They tried to bully pregnant moms into believing they wouldn’t have insurance when they stepped inside the delivery room. But our members got on their phones and convinced Group Health officials to guarantee the same continuation of coverage for their members that already is provided during strikes under WEA’s Premera plans.
Even now, the district thinks the renewed threat of fines will cause us to forget why we launched this battle. They’ve sent e-mails gloating about how our picket lines and our bargaining power will crumble on Monday. They’ve posted reader boards announcing that schools will reopen Tuesday, apparently without teachers, given our vote making it clear we will return only when we have a ratified contract.
Have our members given up?
KEA had extended an offer to keep our office open today to answer questions from all members who were beginning to question their own resolve. By early afternoon, two members had come in.
The district has been slow to understand our power and our unity. But look at what’s already happened. The district tried to frame this as all about money. Parents get that this dispute is about class size and time with kids. The district tried to shut down our strike before our message could spread into our own community. Instead, our stand has now become a national news story. The headline in Friday’s New York Times: “Teacher Strike in Washington Focused on Class Size.” Becky Hanks tried to convince reporters that our proposal Thursday, which could have ended the strike immediately, cost $5 million more than what we said. But her message all but disappeared from the airwaves once KEA’s Bargaining Team made it clear that it was Hanks who was putting out the phony numbers.
Even without a settlement in hand, the district can no longer ignore our power. We have stood together and stood strong in the face of the most nasty threats, and smears, and insults, and intimidation our administrators can spew forth. We have focused the public conversation on class size and time with kids, and the community is on our side.
As the School Board tries to hide from us and the community, parents have become even more inflamed. A nascent network of online organizing has already generated hundreds upon hundreds of petition signatures to recall all five Kent School Board members, and the effort is not yet three days old. Parents are directly confronting board members in the community, asking why they won’t deal with these issues squarely at the bargaining table.
The tide is turning, and will continue to turn. What we win in this contract will become the foundation for future contracts. Districts that have pulled ahead of Kent did not do so in one bargaining season. They’ve made incremental gains year after year once their unity convinced their districts to listen to, and respect, the concerns they bring to the bargaining table.
Are we ready to give up?
That is a question each of us must answer ourselves Tuesday morning as we continue our quest for smaller classes, more time with students, and competitive compensation.
Attend our 6:30 Sunday night rally
KEA members and school supporters around the region are invited to a 6:30 p.m. rally at Town Square Plaza (also known as “Marble Park”) at Second Avenue and West Smith Street, across from the downtown library. It’s yet one more reminder we are not alone.
Bargaining Update
Teams for KEA and KSD returned to the bargaining table Saturday, and were back at the table again this morning. Talks are continuing with discussions on both sides. The district appears to be backing away from its earlier assertions that our proposal on Thursday cost $5 million more than KEA had announced. No new tentative agreements had been reached as of early Saturday afternoon.
What about the fines?
School districts historically have agreed to ask the courts to drop fines once classes resume because it’s important for operations to return to as normal as possible so that students’ education can get back on track. But a concern has arisen that Kent administrators like Chuck Lind and Larry Miner have made it clear that their priority is power, not student achievement, and they might be filled with such irrational venom that they would continue to try to smear Kent’s teachers no matter how much damage that causes within the community.
It’s a legitimate concern, so let’s assume the worst does happen:
The district can’t ignore parents forever, and the School Board can’t cancel all its public meetings indefinitely. They will have to defend spending tax money needed in the classroom to continue a petty and vindictive fight against their own teachers even after the strike is settled. We have a right to due process before fines can be assessed. Our union has vowed to step in with legal support to demand hearings, forcing the district to provide sworn testimony about which teachers crossed the lines, which days they crossed and numerous other details that would be critical for the assessment of fines. Independently of the district, the judge has the power to reduce or remove fines based on mitigating factors. Our union has prepared an answer to the injunction lawsuit that outlines in detail the district’s numerous violations of good-faith bargaining and its deliberate strategy to try to intimidate teachers into returning to school.
The court gave administrators a heavy club to use against its own teachers. But wielding that club may not be as easy as they imagined after we have our day in court.

KEA Contract Proposal Removed From KEA Website

September 12, 2009

I just received the following note from Dale Folkerts, the WEA Communications person in charge of our www.kentschools.org website.  Many have asked why the KEA proposal from Thursday, Sept. 10th has been removed from that website.  KSD still has both proposals up, but it sounds like they are outdated at this point.  Here’s his response:

Yes, the bargaining team asked me to take it down. The underlining and strike-throughs that are essential to understanding which parts of the proposal are new and which are being deleted did not transfer well from their Word docs to the online PDF. So the result was something that was incomprehensible if not plain inaccurate. I asked for a newer, cleaner version, but have not received it. They’ve been busy reading and responding to proposals today, and that is their top priority. I am not going to bother them for this, and our members should also give them time to do the work that is essential to reaching a settlement, rather than bombarding them with e-mail queries.
 
 

Dale Folkerts, New Media Coordinator

WEA Communications

United We Stand!

September 11, 2009

Two opportunities for our KEA members and the community members who support us to gather have been scheduled this weekend.  

  • First, the Kent Parents Coalition has asked us to inform you of an informational meeting tonight, Friday the 11th, at East Hill Park in Kent.  (East Hill Park is on SE 248th St, just east of 104th Ave SE/Benson Hwy.)  The parent meeting tonight will begin at 6 pm.  The meeting this evening is not being organized by the KEA, but we encourage community members who support teachers or who have questions to attend.

 

  • The second gathering will be a rally for KEA members, as well as members of other unions in the area, on Sunday, Sept. 13th at 6:30 pm.  The rally will be held at the new Town Square Park, site of the Kent Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  (Town Square Park is located on the corner of W Smith St and 2nd Ave N, south of Kent Station and across from the Kent Library.)   We encourage KEA members, supporters, and their families to meet there  to join together in a spirit of unity in this difficult time.