Port Angeles School District paraeducators and their supports rally outside the Lincoln Center ahead of a bargaining session with the school district Wednesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles School District paraeducators and their supports rally outside the Lincoln Center ahead of a bargaining session with the school district Wednesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Paraeducators seek higher wages from Port Angeles School District

PORT ANGELES — Members of the Port Angeles Paraeducator Association rallied outside the Lincoln Center before their bargaining session with Port Angeles School District officials.

Trix Donohue, co-president of the union, said prior to the bargaining session Wednesday that paraeducators are asking for “a fair wage to bring us up to equity with the other classified staff.”

Donohue said she would not say what the paraeducators proposed or what amount would be considered fair.

Barbara Gabber, a recently retired paraeducator and lead negotiator for the union, said Thursday that the school district and union were nowhere close to an agreement.

She said the district offered a 1.9 percent raise while paraeducators’ first proposal was for an approximately $7.50 raise, a number she said comes from the state’s Compensation Technical Working Group.

Paraeducators are among the lowest paid classified staff in the Port Angeles School District. Base pay for a paraeducator is $15.68 per hour.

She said the paraeducators’ initial offer was “in the weeds,” but the goal is to end up somewhere in the middle.

Superintendent Martin Brewer said Thursday there will need to be compromise on both sides. He said the plan is to meet again with the paraeducators early next month.

“Our hope is we can resolve the issue from the the district’s standpoint in the near future,” he said. “The district has the intent to get to the table and hammer out a deal we can afford and I think the paraeducators have the same agenda.”

For the 2016-17 school year paraeducators worked with an expired contract as they negotiated with the school district, though the current agreement covers 2016-18.

Secretaries, custodians, building heads, bus drivers, couriers, dispatchers, maintenance works and grounds people all earn more.

Several teachers attended the rally as well. The Port Angeles School District and the teachers’ union agreed to a new contract last month.

“We work side-by-side,” said Eric Pickens, president of the Port Angeles Education Association. “Paraeducators are on the front lines dealing with kids every day, just like we are, so we want to make sure they are paid a competitive wage so we can attract the best and retain the best paraeducators for the benefit of our students here.”

Sequim School District classified staff — paraeducators, maintenance and custodial employees, secretaries, transportation and exempt administrative employees — also are in negotiations with their district officials for higher wages.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

Port Angeles High School teacher John Henry holds a sign as paraeducators prepare to go into a bargaining session with the Port Angeles School District on Wednesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles High School teacher John Henry holds a sign as paraeducators prepare to go into a bargaining session with the Port Angeles School District on Wednesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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