After several months of meditation between the Sequim School District and Sequim Education Association, the teachers union has come to a tentative agreement with the district. (Erin Hawkins/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim School Board expected to vote on tentative teacher contract Oct. 16

SEQUIM — A tentative agreement has been made between Sequim teachers and the administration regarding teacher contracts.

Diana Piersoll, Sequim Education Association (SEA) president, and Sequim Schools Superintendent Gary Neal stood together as they announced the agreement at a school board meeting Monday.

“Now we have all the nuts and bolts,” Piersoll said. “We will have [the agreement] ready to go by the next board meeting.”

Neal said, in answer to a question, that board members could ask questions about the pact at the meeting Monday, Oct. 16, when the board is set to consider ratifying the agreement.

“At this point, everything is not completely finalized, so it’s a little premature to start talking about it,” Neal said.

Members of the SEA had set a deadline for a possible strike Sept. 27 or a later date if their bargaining team had not reached an agreement with the district by that date. The bargaining team and the district came to a tentative agreement Sept. 25.

On Sept. 28, 86 percent of SEA members voted to ratify the agreement.

Several board members praised teachers for coming to a resolution.

“Thank you for coming to a resolution, and we look forward to the next steps,” said board member Robin Henrikson.

“We see your effort and recognize that,” said Brian Kuh, board vice president.

Piersoll said there is some healing that still needs to be done between the teachers union and the district, but they are off to a good start.

She said the contract would be for one year. The bargaining process would have to begin again next April or sooner.

The SEA and Washington Education Association (WEA) representatives said this was a crucial year for teachers to bargain for the contract they wanted because the new state budget will change how teachers’ salaries are allotted in the future.

The representatives said teacher salaries are going to be based on a state average of teacher salaries across all districts in Washington state and will be implemented over the next several years.

“There are two numbers you can bargain from,” said Cristi McCorkle, WEA UniServ representative.

“One is the state average: They take all the districts and average the pay together,” she said.

“The other is taking your own supplemental and money you’ve generated in your local and averaging that.

“So what we want to do is bargain for whatever is greater,” she added.

In the current agreement, teachers made gains in class size overload pay at the elementary school level, increases in supplemental stipends for staff, input on the Instructional Materials Committee and adding seven full-time staff members to the district, SEA and WEA representatives said.

As far as the overcrowding of students at Greywolf Elementary, Piersoll said the district is working with the SEA to find a solution.

“We have an agreement we’re working through,” Piersoll said.

Neal said when negotiations started last April, the state budget had not come out yet and it wasn’t until August when the district was able to start the teacher salary conversation.

Neal also said this year would mark a starting point for how teacher salaries would be implemented over time under a new state budget.

“This year has been set aside as a baseline to see what happens around the state,” Neal said.

“The state’s going to collect the salaries from all the different districts and then they’re going to study what the mean salary is and that’s what they’re going to use as their base.”

He said the state will study teacher salaries this year. Next year (2018-19), the state will fund it at 50 percent, and then the following year (2019-20) is when the state will supposedly fully implement state funding.

“I’m trying to keep my fingers crossed because things could change between now and then,” Neal said.

“There are a lot of ‘ifs.’ ”

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Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at ehawkins@sequimgazette.com.

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