Everett teachers OK contract with early Friday releases

EVERETT — Teachers in the Everett School District voted Thursday night to approve a new three-year contract that calls for all students this school year to be released early every Friday for most of the year.

The contract also calls for 2 percent raises each year of the contract and gives elementary school teachers $15 for each student day above a set classroom-size limit.

“I can’t think of any significant issue that wasn’t addressed in some manner that we brought to the table,” said Mike Wartelle, a negotiator for the teachers union, speaking to hundreds of teachers at Everett’s Civic Auditorium.

The Everett School Board will vote on the contract in September.

All students would be released 75 minutes early at all schools in Everett and Mill Creek every Friday from Oct. 5 through May 31, 2013.

In an email sent to parents, Superintendent Gary Cohn said the Learning Improvement Fridays are intended for teachers to work together, “discussing and analyzing student learning results, planning lessons together and designing ways of teaching that improve each student’s learning.”

The school calendar reduces the number of two-and-a-half hour early release days.

The new Friday schedule is set for only the first year of the contract, but could be renegotiated for the remainder of the contract, which expires in 2015.

“The district wanted this to be a two-year test period,” Wartelle said before the teacher’s voted. “The situation warrants the parties coming back together and saying here is what went wrong, here is what was good, here is what we should change. There’s going to be some rocky roads in places.”

According to the contract, Everett Education Association, which has about 1,100-members, and the district agree that the primary purpose of the early release days are for teachers to work together to improve instruction, school programs, professional growth and student learning opportunities, he said.

The union was told by the district that it wants to carve out some time for the teachers, and then trust them with how they choose to spend that time, Wartelle said.

“I want you to remember those words,” he said. “I want you to use those words the first time and any time an administration person in good faith, or in ill will, or unwittingly says, ‘You should be working on this’ or ‘You get this done’ or ‘Something that came from our faculty meeting, next Friday, that’s the time for you to complete this.’”

Additional details in the contract include setting up a move from a trimester to a semester grading basis in all elementary and high schools, beginning this school year, and in all schools starting in the 2013-14 school year. The school year starts Wednesday in the district, which has about 19,000 students.

Everett school director Jessica Olson said she believes the public should have a chance to address the new Friday schedule.

“If the public has objections to this they should be able to voice their opinion to it,” she said.

The Everett School Board will consider the contract in an open public meeting next month, district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 11.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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