Trash, tests, training: Teachers had many issues besides pay

Big raises aren’t the only thing in the new Everett Education Association contract.

OLYMPIA — Nearly 1,000 public school teachers filled seats in the Everett Civic Auditorium early Tuesday to learn how much of a pay raise they are getting under a new two-year contract with the Everett district.

However, before leaders of the Everett Education Association made the Big Reveal — which turned out to be nearly 20 percent for the most experienced instructors — they churned through 36 pages of additions, subtractions and amendments to the 133-page contract expiring Friday.

The many revisions show teachers’ workplace concerns include trash pick-ups, student testing and training of beginning instructors.

There’s also a new memorandum of understanding regarding layoffs that seems to indicate that the union, the district and the school board may already be concerned about the financial risks posed by this deal.

Tucked into those 36 pages is new language setting an expectation for “trash to be emptied from classrooms daily, and classrooms to be vacuumed or swept on a regular basis.”

And it’s now in writing that if teachers must move into new classrooms or new schools, they will be provided “sufficient boxes to pack all district-owned materials” used for instruction.

While teachers are not required to do lunch duty where they supervise kids, new wording says secondary school employees “will regularly maintain visibility in hallways around their classrooms when students arrive or depart from school and in between classes.” Before, it was only expected at the beginning and end of the school day.

Those were not matters that required a lot of discussion. The protracted conversations surrounded aspects of educating students and tracking their academic progress.

Teachers will be able to conduct fewer district-required tests, for example.

Specifically, the Developmental Reading Assessment is off the schedule for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders as teachers switch to other tools and look to spend more time working one-on-one with students on their reading skills.

“Instruction is much more important than assessment on this,” association President Jared Kink said in the meeting, eliciting loud applause. “We have great contract language that allows you to control how much assessment to do.”

The contract also contains changes aimed at reducing how much time teachers spend in meetings. And there’s a provision ensuring beginning teachers receive up to two years of guidance and support from a colleague at their school. The current contract calls for one year of mentoring. There’s also language to reduce caseloads for counselors and increase services for special education.

Add in pay hikes for teachers, substitutes and coaches, and the price tag of this contract will add several million dollars to the district’s annual expenses.

Which is why the memorandum of understanding regarding layoff and recall language cannot be overlooked, though it didn’t get a lot of public mention Tuesday.

The current teacher contract says the least senior member of a staff is the first to be laid off. Under the new agreement, a committee of union and district representatives will discuss a potentially different approach. The panel will start meeting in September and is supposed to turn in any proposals by December.

It might seem an odd time for such a conversation given that the economy is booming and the state is putting billions of additional dollars into schools.

But officials in the Everett district already are warning of looming budget deficits unless lawmakers further stabilize school funding. Program cuts and layoffs could hit Everett as soon as the 2019 school year and certainly by 2020, they told the school board Tuesday.

The gloomy forecast contrasted sharply with the joyous mood early Tuesday, when nearly every union member couldn’t wait to vote to ratify what Kink described as “the best contract in the state.”

Only time will tell if all of them will be cheering as much, or at all, in coming months.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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