Posts Tagged ‘Bargaining’

What is KEA doing for you?

January 17, 2010

So, the strike has been over for a few months now, and everyone is back in their rooms.  After hearing so much from KEA before and during the strike, it has been pretty quiet recently.  As a result, you might be asking, “What has KEA been doing for me lately?”  The answer is, more than we can put in this blog entry!   Expect regular updates in the next few weeks.

KEA Wins Another Arbitration, KSD Weeps Gently

In the process of enforcing the contract, KEA has been forced on several occasions to file grievances about various violations of the contract.  Currently, Lisa, Mike, and Temple have about 20 they are working on!  Sometimes, when the initial steps of the grievance process cannot resolve the problem, KEA is forced to request an arbitration hearing to settle an issue.  In this case, a neutral arbitrator is selected to hold a formal hearing and rule on the matter.  KEA had already won two previous arbitrations in 2008 over the issues of seniority and an involuntary transfer, as well as the district’s overreliance on subcontracting through outside private agencies to hire teachers.  Yet another arbitration was decided in December.

At issue in this arbitration was the professional goal setting forms that were being used throughout the district in relation to our formal evaluations as teachers and certificated staff.  Depending on which building you worked at or which administrator was your evaluating supervisor, you may have seen any of several different forms.  These many different forms had been created across the district by various administrators, but were not included in the contract.  Additionally, some administrators in the district went so far as to assign the professional goals of teachers without their input, and tie teachers’ evaluation goals to their students’ test scores or to the buildings SIP plan!  At one elementary, the principal wrote on a Special Ed. Teacher’s goal sheet that 80% of their students would meet standard on the Reading WASL!  Obviously this was in violation of our contract and the spirit of our professional goals, but the district refused to acknowledge this fact.

While the district claimed it had the right to do this as part of their rights as management, KEA argued that the forms violated the contract.  (Article VIII of the contract)  Specifically, the District argued that there was a relationship between student test scores, the SIP plan, and the CAM (Certificated Assessment Model).  KEA’s own Mike McNett, however, argued that the forms went against the whole idea of a teacher setting professional goals based upon their own personal reflection through a collaborative process.  McNett also stated that teacher evaluations should be based on the professional practice of the educator and the extensive evaluative criteria already negotiated into the contract (CAM rubrics), not on student performance.  According to the contract, test scores are used appropriately when they are used by teachers for planning and preparation, not to determine whether a teacher is being effective or not.   We all know that teaching is about more than test scores…

The end result:  KEA won!  The arbitrator noted in his decision in favor or KEA that the Kent School District cannot continue, “unilaterally adopting goals and criteria,” that it wants without bargaining.  Instead, the arbitrator said the evaluation process must be conducted in a way that allows for, “uniformity, equity, and objective assessment throughout the District.”  So when the district invented different forms in each building that were not in the original contract, it went against the contract’s provisions for equal assessment criteria throughout the district.  The ruling went on to say that some teachers were, “inappropriately guided in the selection of their goals,” by their supervising administrators.  KEA was pleased with the result, to say the least.   Once again it was shown that the district’s administration continues to erroneously claim power over KEA members that is not a part of our contract. 

So now that the decision is in, what’s next? The arbitrator ordered KSD to immediately stop using any forms not currently in the contract, and told both parties to go back to the bargaining table to settle the issue of which forms would be used in future goal setting conferences.  Since that time, both sides met in a bargaining session that Lisa and Mike described as, “surprisingly pleasant.”  The proposed changes that KEA brought to the table were largely accepted, with only a few suggestions by the District for minor changes.   KEA will let you know how this might affect you as more info is available.  Talk to your Building Rep if you have questions.

It still seems amazing to many of us that the district truly believed that it could dictate our goals to us, and base them on student scores rather than on the criteria in the contract.  Once again, the district continues to downplay the professionalism of its employees.  KEA maintains that when any KEA member sits down with their supervisor, it should be in a spirit of collaboration, rather than an exercise in dictatorial top-down management in violation of the terms of our contract.  Let’s hope that this arbitration decision will help the district see that it is better to work with KEA’s members than against them!


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.

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 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

KSD School Board Mtg. Cancelled? What Are They Afraid Of?

September 9, 2009

The KSD School Board cancelled its regularly scheduled meeting for today, September 9th.  The next regularly scheduled School Board meeting is not scheduled until September 23rd.  This meeting is open  to the public for observation, and includes a time for comments and questions from the audience.  The School Board instead has been meeting behind closed doors in executive session the last few days to discuss bargaining.   You can view the School Board’s meeting schedule and agenda here

Once again, the School Board is avoiding input or pressure from parents, teachers, and community members that may help to settle this strike.  Whether you are for Kent teachers, you oppose them, or you are somewhere in the middle, you should be afforded the opportunity to address your elected officials to make your voice heard!  School Board President Jim Berrios was willing to meet a small group of concerned parents last Friday at his restaurant.  School Board member Chris Davies is also willing to meet with a small group of parents this evening.  They should be commended for doing so.  However, the fact that they are avoiding larger groups in situations where they do not have complete control should tell us something of their reluctance to accept criticism or to be held responsible for their decisions.   They twice locked out hundreds of parents who arrived last week to voice their support for teachers at a regularly scheduled meeting times.  Emails and letters to the School Board and Dr. Vargas have been so numerous that other administrative personnel have been responding to them.  And still the District stalls at the bargaining table! 

This is OUR district, not theirs– they work for us.  If they chose at any moment to become directly involved in bargaining, they could direct the District bargaining team to accept any KEA offers or make any counteroffers that would move both sides towards a settlement.   Their reluctance to get directly involved, combined with  their choice to focus the energies of the District towards legal action and bargaining with the public through their often inaccurate information or out-of-date postings of contract language should only be seen as a major reason why Kent is the only school district in Washington, and perhaps even the United States that is still on strike.  It is time for parents and community members to tell School Board President Jim Berrios and his colleagues to step out of the shadows and hear the voices of those they are accountable to!

Bargaining Suspended; KSD Can’t Justify Own Numbers

September 8, 2009

Following Monday’s vote by KEA members to remain on strike, both bargaining teams returned to the bargaining table for a marathon session from approximately 9:30 pm Monday night until 6:00 am Tuesday morning.  Additional proposals were shared, but KEA pointed out that the District’s most recent proposal was basically unchanged from their previous ones.  At that point, the mediator chossuggested that mediation be temporarily suspended until further notice.   Bargaining is on hold until either side is willing to provide a new proposal.  Thursday’s court hearing on the injunction order will probably influence the next move of both sides.  

Additionally, at about midnight, representatives from KEA’s bargaining team met with KSD’s Executive Director of Finance, John Knutsen, as well as the mediators.  During that meeting, Mike McNett from KEA presented a variety of spreadsheets related to KEA’s class size and caseload proposals.  Mr. McNett and the KEA team proceded to walk Mr. Knutson through their source data, calculations, and methodology to show how KEA’s class size and caseload proposals were created, and where KEA’s projections for the cost of these proposals came from.  Mr. Knutson, however, brought only a few papers to justify the claims made by KSD about how much these proposals will cost.  He was unable to provide any specifics about how KSD arrived at their cost and staffing calculations, nor could he outline the source of their data, their calculations, or their methodology as KEA had done.  It is the belief of the KEA Bargaining Team, therefore, that the numbers that the Kent School District has claimed in the press about the financial impact of KEA’s proposals are suspect at best, and fabricated at worst. 

Subsequently, KEA has sent a request for information to Dr. Vargas, John Knutson, and KSD’s Chief Bargainer, Dave Alfred, asking that they provide KEA with any documents that might justify their cost and staffing numbers.  KEA hopes that a further discussion of the numbers each side uses, and how they arrived at those numbers, may help to resolve the current impasse.  Unfortunately, the Kent School District has in the past frequently refused or has been slow to provide documents requested by KEA, despite the fact that it is legally obligated to make all District documents a matter of public record.  (This is one of the formal complaints in the Unfair Labor Practice that KEA has already filed against the District.  The ULP hearings will begin on September 21st.) 

We hope that KSD provides any documents related to their calculations in a timely manner as a show of good faith bargaining.  Hopefully this does not become yet another example of KSD dragging its feet in the hopes of delaying active and productive bargaining.

Movement, But No Agreement

September 7, 2009


The following was sent to KEA members’ home emails today from Lisa Brackin-Johnson, KEA President:

Negotiators for KEA and the district were at the bargaining table with a second state mediator throughout the weekend, and back again this morning.

Much of the contract discussion since our most recent KEA member meeting on Thursday has focused on increasing time with students by putting limits on administrative and staff meetings. While we are closer on this issue, we do not yet have a tentative agreement on that topic. The district waited until noon today to respond to a class size proposal that KEA delivered nearly three days ago, at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. At this hour, KEA’s team is examining the response for its strengths and weaknesses. There has been no further discussion about compensation issues, although that has not been the major focus of our negotiations.

In summary, we have seen only incremental progress at the bargaining table. At this moment it does not appear we will reach an overall tentative agreement in time for a contract vote at today’s meeting unless the district’s response time to our proposals improves dramatically in the next few hours.

KEA members will meet at 6 p.m. this evening, Monday Sept. 7, at the Green River Community College gym to decide our next steps. Please attend. Arrive early and carpool because parking is limited. 

The address is: 12401 SE 320th St., Auburn. Find online maps at:

Mediation Continues; No New Agreements

September 5, 2009

Bargaining teams for both the KSD and KEA, along with the two mediators, met briefly today.  This was followed by about 8 hours of work in separate rooms for both teams.  No new agreements were reached during thus far.  Both teams will be back at the table tomorrow.    Let’s hope that both sides are moving towards an agreement!

Why Is Class Size Worth The Risk of Violating The Injunction?

September 4, 2009

Since so much is being made of the class size issue in this bargain, I thought it would be good for teachers to have an opportunity to post examples to illustrate for the community how class size numbers have been distorted or misrepresented by the District, or how a change in class size can change how we do our jobs. 

Comments for this post should only be related to giving personal examples from teachers and other KEA members for the benefit of illustrating why this is important.  Any comments that are off topic will not be posted!!!

Friday Update: Rays of Hope?

September 4, 2009

As you may have already read, Kent teachers were ordered back to work by a judge on Thursday.  The judge ruled that teachers must return to work on Tuesday, September 8th, with students returning the following day.  In response, KEA members met at Green River Community College on Thursday evening to explore their next steps.  Many members attending had expected to vote immediately to either ignore the judge’s injunction order and continue their strike, or to end the strike  and return to work in the hopes bargaining would continue.  However, KEA’s Bargaining Team recommended a third way:  delay any action until Monday to allow bargaining to take place, and see if an agreement might still be reached. 

The meeting Thursday night of about 1,300 KEA members began with an explanation by attorneys from the Washington Education Association, who explained the injunction process, and the consequences for teachers and union leadership should they choose not to comply with the injunction order and return to work.  The attorneys gave an overview of the process and answered questions from the audience.  Afterwards, KEA President Lisa Brackin-Johnson announced that the Bargaining Team had recommended holding off on further action.  At first, members were skeptical, calling instead for an immediate vote to defy the injunction.   Further discussion, however, caused the majority of  members to shift their thinking.  it was pointed out that with community support growing in recent days, more could be done both in the community and at bargaining to bring the District back to the table for a settlement.  In the end, President Brackin-Johnson took a vote for the resolution to hold off on action until Monday by having those that supported the motion stand.   The response was a nearly unanimous vote to delay action.  Members were told to return Monday, August 7th to the Green River Community College at 6 pm.  At that time, members will either vote to ratify a tentative agreement if one is reached through bargaining, or else they will vote on whether or not to comply with the injunction.

On Friday, both sides returned to the Bargaining Table in the morning to resume mediation.  A new mediator had been requested by KEA, which the KSD agreed to, in the hopes of breaking the impasse.  Both sides claimed new proposals would be brought to the table.  (No news yet on details of these proposals.)  While mediation continued, a huge crowd of teachers again gathered to line both sides of 256th St in front of the Kent School District Administrative Building.  Unlike last Friday’s demonstration, however, today they were joined by hundreds of parents, community members, and representatives from other unions such as the Boeing Machinists, Teamsters, and other teachers’ unions.  The united crowd held signs and waived at passing cars that honked and waved in support of teachers and a fair resolution of the bargain.   Besides the excitement of the gathering, KEA members and teachers used the event to circulate informational handouts that we hope will be further spread throughout the Kent community.  In an unwanted bit of excitement, an alleged drunk driver who had just allegedly committed a hit and run slammed into another car at the intersection of 256th and 124th.  KEA members witnessed the event and helped in aiding the injured and directing traffic until emergency services arrived.  No KEA members or their supporters were injured in the event.

Perhaps the biggest news on Friday, however, was that a small group of KEA members were able to make contact with School Board President Berrios and Superintendent Vargas Friday morning.  A small group of about 12 KEA members were sent to quietly and respectfully stand vigil without picket signs in front of Mr. Barrios’ house, in the hopes that they could encourage him to work to end the strike.  Mr. Berrios came out of his house to cordially greet the members, and invited them to join him at his restaurant, The Golden Steer, to talk about their issues.  The informal meeting lasted for several hours.  Superintendent Vargas joined the group for over an hour, as the members outlined their concerns, explained how class size impacted them, and talked about their hopes for a resolution.  Members in attendance reported that they felt that both Mr. Berrios and Mr. Vargas seemed earnest in their efforts to listen to and understand the members’ positions.  They also said that they directly asked Berrios and Vargas several times to become directly involved in the bargaining process.  As we hear more details of this meeting, we will be posting them.

So, with growing community support, a decision by KEA members to delay a decision on whether or not to defy the injunction, and a new mediator helping with bargaining, it seems that there is at least some home that a resolution might still be reached.  As more information becomes available, we will post it here and on the the webpage.