LYNNWOOD — Teachers and parents rallied outside Edmonds School District offices Tuesday evening with speeches, chanting and cheers to try to bring attention to ongoing contract negotiations.
The rally was scheduled to coincide with an Edmonds School Board meeting. Two more days of bargaining talks are scheduled Aug. 14 and 15.
Maryjo Green, whose children attend Beverly Elementary School, said she turned out to support teachers in part because she previously worked as a teacher in the Federal Way School District.
She said she thinks teachers deserve smaller classes and more time for planning to meet the individual needs of their students.
Her three children, Kate, 9, Sophia, 8, and Charly, 6, all made signs to bring to the rally.
Kate held a sign saying: “Don’t squish us like sardines,” a reference to class sizes, while sister Sophia’s message was “go Beverly teachers.”
Jennifer Cingcade, a teacher at Martha Lake Elementary School, held a neon green sign with the words “work load/time,” indicating a need for balance.
She has worked for the school district for 16 years. “We want what’s best for our students,” she said.
Erin Alfieri, who also teaches at Martha Lake, is a 13-year veteran with the district. Tuesday night was the first time she participated in a rally to show support for contract negotiations.
“We love our jobs,” she said, but teachers need more time to plan, work with colleagues, and talk with parents.
“It’s more difficult to do what’s best for kids when we don’t have time to do that,” she said.
Both sides agree that students come first, said school district spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala. “We have a demonstrated commitment that we support students, families, and staff.”
Negotiations took place on three days earlier this month.
“After the third day, we were still very far apart,” said Andi Nofziger-Meadows, president of the Edmonds Education Association. “That’s when we decided to let the public know things weren’t going well.”
Nevertheless, she said, she hopes school can start on time Sept. 6.
Edmonds is one of more than a half dozen local districts where contracts are being negotiated with teachers. Statewide, the Washington Education Association reports roughly 175 contracts are open for either teachers or classified employees, such as classroom aides and bus drivers.
Other local districts now negotiating teacher contracts include Arlington, Marysville, Monroe, Skykomish, Snohomish and Stanwood-Camano. Snohomish had bargaining sessions Tuesday and scheduled for Wednesday.
Lake Stevens in May agreed to a one-year rollover contract. The pact provides a 3 percent pay increase for the 2017-18 school year and allows the district and teachers union to continue negotiations for the 2018-19 school year, said Jayme Taylor, a school district spokeswoman.
The agreement in Lake Stevens was reached before the Legislature approved a historic budget that addressed a Washington Supreme Court mandate to overhaul how education is paid for statewide. In the court decision known as McCleary, justices made clear the state needed to provide ample funding for education from a reliable and sustainable source of revenue, and to make sure school districts no longer rely on local property tax levies to pay employee salaries and other basic expenses.
The McCleary decision funnels more state money into education and reduces how much districts can ask in local levies. It changes existing salary formulas and that could prompt teacher unions to forgo their typical three-year contracts in favor of one-year agreements to see what shakes out. Many of the legislation’s major compensation-related changes go into effect Sept. 1, 2018, which means this year’s contract talks are the last using old salary formulas that have been around for decades.
Next year’s talks promise to be interesting.
“It’s a huge change in how teachers are paid and many more decisions will be made locally in future years,” said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the Washington Education Association.
The Edmonds Education Association represents about 1,500 staff in the county’s largest school district, including teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians, and occupational and physical therapists.
Members are pressing for more counseling time for students, smaller class sizes, providing special help for the district’s increasingly diverse student body, and more help for special education teachers, Nofziger-Meadows said.
Jakala said she couldn’t speak to many of the issues that are being discussed in the negotiations because she doesn’t want to violate the rules of collective bargaining.
Teachers have told union representatives they want more support for students with barriers to learning.
“We’re looking to help close the opportunity gaps that many of our students face” since students come from such diverse backgrounds, Nofziger-Meadows said.
That can include steps such as extra tutoring help, scholarships for camps, or providing them with computers.
Dozens of classrooms across the district last school year were above the target class size limits, including special education classrooms, she said.
For the 2016-17 school year, class size targets ranged from 21 students per classroom in kindergarten and first grade to 27 students per classroom in fifth grade. The goal was 24 students per classroom in high school.
When class sizes exceed those targets, teachers receive extra pay or extra staffing help, Jakala said.
The district was notified less than a month ago how much money it would get from the state for the upcoming school year, including money for class size targets, she said.
Contract talks aren’t focusing on compensation issues, Nofziger-Meadows said.
The union has scheduled a general membership meeting Aug. 29.
The last time teachers went on strike in the Edmonds School District was 1987.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.