School on Monday: Stanwood teacher contract ends uncertainty

“It’s hard to explain to a 5-year-old when they don’t understand what a strike is,” one mom said.

STANWOOD — Teachers have a new contract and school is on for Monday, after days of uncertainty for families.

The agreement between the Stanwood-Camano School District and the local teachers union was ratified Friday. It ended a strike that canceled the first week of school for more than 4,500 students.

Under the agreement, starting pay for a beginning teacher will be $55,555, up from $49,385. The most experienced teachers will earn $106,113, up from $93,082. Over the course of the three-year contract, teachers will get a 18.5 percent raise, according to Maurene Stanton, the district’s executive director of human resources.

Students will have to make up the strike days at the end of the school year. The last day of school now is set for June 20.

Stanwood-Camano was the last of several Snohomish County school districts to wrap up contract negotiations in the past week. Teachers in other districts were prepared to strike, but settled in time for the start of classes.

Stanwood-Camano parents and students waited nightly to learn whether there would be school the next day.

Katie Moran-Durfee graduated from Stanwood High School and now has three children enrolled at Twin City Elementary. The family lives across the street.

“They could see their teachers picketing, and they were so sad they couldn’t go,” she said.

Her son is going into third grade, and one of her daughters is going into first. Her younger daughter is about to start kindergarten and was looking forward to her first day.

“It’s hard to explain to a 5-year-old when they don’t understand what a strike is,” Moran-Durfee said.

Monday and Thursday night were particularly tense. Families learned around 9 p.m. on Labor Day there would be no school Tuesday.

On Thursday evening, the district sent a message that an agreement had been reached. It retracted the announcement shortly afterward, saying negotiations were ongoing. It wasn’t until around midnight that both sides announced a tentative agreement.

When the first automated call went out Thursday, Moran-Durfee let her kids listen in. Later, she had to tell them it was a mistake. They thought she was playing a joke on them, she said. They were upset at first but are now excited to start school Monday.

Kassandra Burnham’s daughter is entering seventh grade at Stanwood Middle School. This past week, the pair joined teachers as they picketed.

“With my daughter being older, I haven’t had as many childcare challenges,” Burnham said. “But it has been frustrating going day-to-day, not knowing if school is going to start … It was like, do I need to have her backpack ready tomorrow or do I need to have it Monday?”

Burnham also is a Stanwood grad and volunteers at her daughter’s school.

The strike showed her the need to pay more attention to decisions at the district level. Families should know what’s happening in the schools all the time, not just when there’s a strike, she said.

She’ll be happy to finally take her daughter back to school.

“I have to take the embarrassing pictures, the whole bit,” she said. “We have a routine now.”

Reporter Lizz Giordano contributed to this story.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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