SEQUIM — The agreement on a new contract reached by the Sequim School District and the Sequim teachers’ union focuses on more flexible planning time and compensation for teachers.
The Sequim Education Association (SEA) members ratified the new contract with the district Aug. 29, two days before the previous contract expired Aug. 31.
On the same day, the Port Angeles Education Association ratified an agreement with the Port Angeles School District that will net starting teachers $47,000 a year. The vote was 198 to 16.
Aaron Reno, president of the Sequim teachers union, said members voted on the new contract with about a 98 percent approval rate.
“[Members] are feeling positive with the new contract,” he said.
Reno did not comment on teacher compensation because the contract has not been ratified by the School Board. The contract goes to the school board for approval at its next meeting today at the district board room at 503 N. Sequim Ave.
Sequim Superintendent Gary Neal also would not comment on teacher compensation because the contract has not been approved by the board, but said the district’s new funding model is set for the next four years.
Collective bargaining started in April, Reno said, and the process was smooth this year.
“We put together packets we believe are fair and equitable with surrounding districts,” Reno said.
Reno said one of the main focal points in this year’s negotiations was making changes to planning time for teachers district-wide.
The new agreement allows teachers more opportunity before school, after school and during the school day to take his or her preparation periods rather than a set time every day, Neal added.
“The collective bargaining agreement prior to this one was worded in a way that locked in on when [teachers] could have prep periods,” Neal said.
The state Supreme Court approved Washington state legislators’ plan to fully fund basic education in public schools per the McCleary mandate in June, one that created a new funding model for teacher salaries in districts across the state.
While Sequim teachers feel confident in this year’s contract, Reno said legislators’ McCleary decision funding changes had a significant impact during collective bargaining, and that he believes it’s not a perfect fix.
“There are a lot of complications,” Reno said. “Sequim for example, missed [a] 4 percent funding credit from the state.”
That funding credit is based on the average placement of teachers on the 2017-18 state salary schedule and is awarded only to districts whose average placement is below the state average, Steve McIntire, the school district’s interim business and financial director, said in an email.
He confirmed that Sequim missed out on the funding credit.
Port Angeles Superintendent Martin Brewer had said that a state-mandated cap of $1.50 per $1,000 of valuation on levy funding that begins Jan. 1 had limited the district’s ability to cover salaries.
The levy that was bringing in about $9 million will generate $6.7 million for the September 2018-June 2019 school year, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
It will generate $4.4 million September 2019-June 2020.
Port Angeles School District administrators have said newly acquired basic education funding — a result of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision — left $2 million for salaries and other purposes.