Schools, teachers discuss contracts

With less than a month before classes are set to begin, several school districts and teacher unions are continuing to negotiate labor contracts.

Local districts in contract negotiations this summer include Arlington, Edmonds, Granite Falls, Mukilteo and Sultan.

The Edmonds School District has reached a tentative three-year labor agreement with teachers, who will vote on the proposal later this month, said Debbie Jakala, a district spokeswoman.

Arlington on Friday reached a tentative one-year agreement that still must be ratified by teachers, said Misti Gilman, a school district spokeswoman.

Snohomish and South Whidbey have already signed new pacts while contracts in other districts remain in effect.

It’s still early in the bargaining process in other districts, too soon to know if there will be any problems reaching agreements, said Mike Wartelle, who helps negotiate contracts for Pilchuck Uniserv, a local arm of the Washington Education Association.

Many districts don’t do much negotiating in July because of scheduling problems created by vacations, but talks are expected to start up again early this month.

Mukilteo, for instance, is scheduled to meet today and has three full days of talks scheduled for this week “in hopes of getting it wrapped up by the third week of August,” said Fred Poss, the district’s assistant superintendent.

Poss said Mukilteo’s contract talks are typical of negotiations elsewhere with salary, health insurance coverage and workload issues topping the list of issues to be resolved.

With school calendars tied to teacher contracts, parents are eager for early settlements so they can plan activities and vacations for their families.

The same is true for PTAs, which tie many of their meetings, fundraisers and events to days when students are in school.

“We set our calendar based on the school calendar,” said Rick Simon, co-president of the Serene Lake PTA in the Mukilteo School District.

Simon said he understands the need on both sides to negotiate a good contract.

“I’m just hoping that everyone can provide what is needed so we can move forward,” he said.

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