Schools open following contract

PAPEA, district reach tentative agreement

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District and the union representing paraeducators reached a tentative contract agreement after bargaining for more than seven hours Sunday, opening all schools Monday at their usual time.

It will be the first day of class for students in two weeks.

Port Angeles Paraeducator Association members voted 96 percent in favor of the contract when they met Sunday night.

“We’re thrilled to be heading back to school,” PAPEA President Rebecca Winters said in a press release. “We’ve missed our students so much and we’re so thankful for the support of our community, especially our PAEA colleagues.”

The school district and PAPEA bargaining teams met after a one-day break Saturday that came after six straight days of negotiating.

The 130 members of the PAPEA walked off the job April 8 on what would have been the return from spring break, beginning a five-day strike to protest for better pay.

Paraeducators and their supporters picketed every day during bargaining sessions at schools and the administration building.

A rally at Shane Park on Thursday drew more than 130 people and the participation of former Port Angeles School Board member Cindy Kelly, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO President April Sims and State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, who is running for Congress in the 6th District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

On Friday, a group representing Port Angeles Parents for Education assembled in the foyer of the administration building and demanded to speak with Superintendent Marty Brewer.

They pressed him for explanations on district claims it could not afford wage increases to paraeducators, criticized his compensation package, and demanded to know the dollar amount the district had spent on attorney and mediator fees related to the bargaining process.

The school district and PAPEA began bargaining Sept. 19. Since February, the two sides have met 13 times in sessions mediated by the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission.

The previous strike by district paraeducators in November 2018 closed schools for two days.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

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