PORT ANGELES — Schools will reopen Monday after the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association approved a new wage agreement tonight with the Port Angeles School District, ending a two-day strike.
The vote was 94 percent in favor of the new three-year agreement from among the approximately 85 paraeducators who voted on the pact Friday Night, PAPEA Co-President Jennifer Abernathy-Nanez said.
The district’s more than 100 paraeducators went on strike Thursday with the support of teachers who refused to cross their picket lines, forcing the district to close facilities and cancel all classes.
Negotiators for the school district and paraeducators negotiated all day today before reaching a tentative agreement late this afternoon.
Dale Folkerts, Washington Education Association spokesman, said the paraeducators, whose local is in the WEA, met at 6:30 p.m. to consider ratifying the pact.
Schools Superintendent Martin Brewer was confident the agreement would be approved before the paraeducators met, saying the district’s negotiating team felt good about the pact.
District officials began sending robocalls to parents shortly after 5 p.m. today that the agreement had been reached, “clearing the way for classes to resume Monday.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].
Here is the earlier story by Peninsula Daily News reporter Jesse Major.
PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles paraeducators will continue to strike Friday and schools will be closed as contract negotiations continue.
Extracurricular school activities will continue, including sports, performances of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and others.
Among those striking is Julie Davis, who has served as a paraeducator for 21 years. Davis is part of the district’s transitional program for special needs students as they prepare for life after school. It includes teaching students to use public transit, job skills and life skills.
Davis said she needed training from a nurse because she works with a medically fragile student.
Paraeducators, who she said are required to have a two-year degree or pass a paraeducator equivalency test, work in the trenches alongside teachers teaching some of the most vulnerable students, she said.
Paraeducators are among the lowest-paid employees in the Port Angeles School District.
Base pay for a paraeducator with 20 years of experience is $19.55 per hour, $0.62 more per hour than a custodian just starting the job, according to the district’s classified salary schedule. An entry level paraeducator earns $15.68 per hour, $2.95 less than an entry level custodian.
“We’re just trying to reach parity with the other classified staff,” she said. “After 21 years of experience in the district I should at least have that.”
Davis said she is disappointed it has taken so long to receive the recognition she feels paraeducators deserve.
“We are in the trenches every day with the teachers,” she said. “We do more than recess duty, more than lunch room duty. We work right alongside teachers educating students.”
Port Angeles School District Paraeducators began a strike Thursday after negotiations with the district over wages stalled. Teachers voted Tuesday to honor the picket line.
Washington Education Association spokesperson Dale Folkerts said the district and paraeducators continued negotiations Thursday morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and that the paraeducators were preparing a proposal.
“There’s been some movement and willingness on each side to look for some creative solutions to try to find common ground,” he said. “We don’t have a solution yet.”
Port Angeles School District spokesperson Patsene Dashiell said the reason negotiations lasted only two hours is because the state mediator suggested the parties take a break and regroup.
She would not say what the latest proposals were. Paraeducators are expected to have a counter offer ready when negotiations start again at 9 a.m. this morning.
“Our team is certainly willing to negotiate because we want to get this settled,” Folkerts said.
The Port Angeles Paraeducators Association had given the Port Angeles School District until 5 p.m. Wednesday to propose an offer to which they would agree.
In a special meeting Wednesday, School Board members without discussion unanimously approved resolutions suspending all policies, rules and regulations, limiting access to public school grounds, taking legal steps to terminate a strike and authorizing the superintendent to close schools.
Attorneys were authorized and directed to sue any individual employee participating in a strike or concerted refusal to perform services.
At a bargaining session on Oct. 30, the district had offered the paraeducators a 3.5 percent pay increase, and the association countered with a demand of 22 percent.
Neither the district nor the paraeducators have said publicly since then what the latest proposals are.
The school district said in a news release and on social media last Friday that with a 3.5-percent raise paraeducators would be almost the best paid in the region.
The school district earlier this month approved a 4.1 percent raise for other classified staff.
With the 3.5 percent raise, base pay for paraeducators would be $17.28 per hour and a paraeducator with 20 years of experience would earn $22.66 per hour.
With the raise, the only district in the region that would pay more would be the Sequim School District, where entry-level paraeducators are paid $17.64 percent.
Paraeducators in Port Angeles work on 183-day annual contracts, are paid for 11 holidays and receive additional compensation in the form of cash pay-outs for 12 to 22 paid vacation days, depending on years of service.
The school district listed several options for child care during the strike. They are:
• Comfort and Cozy Kids will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Franklin Elementary, 2505 S. Washington St., for children who are already registered in the program. The main campus at 507 N. Liberty St., will run normal hours 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
• The Port Angeles unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, 2620 S. Francis St., will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will serve meals for children already registered in the program.
• The district has collaborated with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the YMCA to provide meals for children during school closure. Meals will be available at the Lower Elwha Tribal Center, 2851 Lower Elwha Road, and the Port Angeles YMCA, 302 S. Francis St., at 2:45 p.m.
• YMCA’s After the Bell program hours have been extended for those children already enrolled to 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
• William Shore Memorial Pool is offering child care from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the strike. The cost is $30 and requires preregistration. Pool staff said the program would likely run through the duration of the strike. For more information call the pool at 360-417-9767.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].