An electronic sign welcomes back students as Stanwood teachers picket in front of the high school on Tuesday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

An electronic sign welcomes back students as Stanwood teachers picket in front of the high school on Tuesday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

No school Wednesday; Stanwood teacher strike continues

Teachers picketed Tuesday, which was to be the first day of classes in Stanwood and Camano Island.

STANWOOD — Teachers in the Stanwood-Camano School District returned to the picket lines Wednesday morning as their strike for a new contract enters its second day.

Members of the Stanwood-Camano Education Association began picketing outside high schools and middle schools at 7 a.m. and at elementary schools at 8 a.m., according to union spokeswoman Jeanne Kelly.

There’s been “a huge outpouring of support” from the community, she said in an email.

“Coffee and water has been delivered, back massages given, and words of encouragement have been showered upon our educators,” Kelly wrote.

Negotiators for the district and the union are slated to meet starting at 9:30 a.m.

On Tuesday, on what would have been the first day of school here, teachers donned red shirts, hefted signs and strode up and down the sidewalks in front of local campuses.

The strike closed schools in Stanwood and on Camano Island. The school district announced the closure late Monday night, saying the administration and the teachers union had failed to agree on a new contract.

About 285 teachers began picketing between 7 and 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Late Tuesday, district officials announced classes would be canceled again Wednesday. Teachers plan to be picketing again, as well, with the next round of bargaining set for the morning.

Nate Christensen teaches at Lincoln Hill, the alternative high school. He described the need to strike as “terrible.”

“My classroom is ready. I’m ready. These teachers are all ready,” he said Tuesday. “We want to be at work. The district wants us to be at work. It’s just a matter of coming to an agreement to make that happen.”

Other schools throughout Snohomish County are set to start classes as scheduled this week, many of them Wednesday. Monroe and Arlington were the latest to reach agreements, with Monroe’s deal struck in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

The two sides in the Stanwood-Camano district spent more than 30 hours over the three-day weekend negotiating with the help of a state mediator.

The district and union continued to negotiate Tuesday, according to an online announcement.

“Both teams are working hard to reach an agreement so that we can begin school as soon as possible,” the announcement read.

Stanwood teachers march through downtown and to the school district office as they strike Tuesday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Stanwood teachers march through downtown and to the school district office as they strike Tuesday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

People honked and waved as they passed the picket lines in Stanwood.

Jeanne Kelly, spokeswoman for the Stanwood Camano Education Association, has taught English at Stanwood High School for about 14 years. The state Supreme Court’s decision on school funding made clear that “salary adjustments were long overdue, and that the money that has been allocated … should be spent on exactly that,” she said. State lawmakers have committed billions in tax dollars toward basic education costs, including salaries.

Former English teacher Jennifer Kelly (no relation to Jeanne Kelly) has been retired more than a decade. She started in the district in the 1970s.

On Tuesday, she carried a sign that read, in part, “This would not happen at Hogwarts.” She also wore a red cap with pins from strikes in 1983 and the 1990s. By her math, she made a better salary as a teacher starting out decades ago than new teachers do now, because of the higher cost of living, she said.

“It made me realize teachers really haven’t caught up,” she said.

In a memo late Monday, from before the strike, the Stanwood-Camano School Board said: “The situation is complicated, more this year perhaps than any other year. Working through the complex changes in the state’s school funding model and newly legislated legal requirements will take additional time.”

The district said teachers have been offered a minimum increase of 11.8 percent, regardless of experience or education, with a top salary of $107,536.

In Monroe, negotiators for the district and the Monroe Education Association reached a tentative agreement early Tuesday to assure schools would open as scheduled on Wednesday.

With the aid of a mediator, they bargained for 12 hours Sunday and throughout Monday before striking a deal at 2:31 a.m. Tuesday, district spokeswoman Tamara Krache said.

The district and union declined to release details until after union members ratified the accord. Teachers are planning to meet Wednesday afternoon to take action.

“I especially want to thank our teachers and staff, parents and community members for their patience and understanding,” Monroe Superintendent Fredrika Smith said in a statement Tuesday.

In Arlington, the district and Arlington Education Association reached a deal Monday night on a new two-year contract. Teachers ratified it Tuesday afternoon.

Under the agreement, starting pay for a beginning teacher will be $57,000, up from $51,109, and the most experienced teachers will earn $111,500, up from $99,286 in the contract, which expired Aug. 31. The new contract provides an average increase of 11 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second year, according to district spokesman Gary Sabol.

“We can now move forward and focus on our number one purpose – student learning,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Chrys Sweeting in a statement.

Union President Jason Klein said teachers were excited to wrap up a new contract.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the students Wednesday morning for the start of the school year,” he said in a statement.

Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.

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