Just four days after a narrowly averting a teacher’s strike, Snoqualmie Valley Education Association President, Lisa Radmer, stood to address the Snoqualmie Valley School Board at its September 12th meeting. She was permitted to surpass the 2-minute public comment time limit and elaborate on teachers’ sentiments regarding their newly approved three-year contract.
Radmer commented that strikes rarely come about over one issue or one bargain. In the case of SVSD teachers, she said it wasn’t just that the pay raise was still low compared to rising health insurance premiums and elementary class size was still too high. The union president commented that years of pent up frustration over a number of issues came to a head during recent contract negotiations, including instances of poor communication and disrespect, which nearly fueled a strike.
Radmer admitted that even her negotiating team underestimated the degree of that teacher frustration and concern, warning the board that teachers’ “emotional bank” is empty and until SVEA members feel their concerns and issues are being heard, strife will continue.
She said the lukewarm 59% contract ratification shows “much work needs to be done to clear the disillusionment of teachers with district priorities.”
She went on to suggest a new Interest-Based Bargaining Model when the two sides meet three years from now to settle on another new contract; one that employs a “paradigm shift,” involving earlier collaboration and one without what Radmer called an “outside adversarial consultant” hired by SVSD for negotiations.
She suggested the two sides utilize professional collaboration way earlier in the bargaining process, like what they use everyday in classrooms, and sit down regularly and honestly to discuss issues that arise – before contracts are even up for negotiation.
Board members appeared to agree with Radmer when it comes to changing future contract bargaining.
Board President, Scott Hodgins commented that the negotiations were “a stumble through in my mind at first” and that the process of negotiating needs to be changed. He said the board will continue to look at ways to improve the process.
Board Vice-President Geoff Doy even suggested that a memorandum of agreement could be created regarding how the 2016 contract negotiation would work, concurring that there should be a better way come to agreement on future teacher contracts.
Superintendent Aune finished up the negotiation discussion by thanking all involved in the process. He admitted his school board was subject to many criticisms during the negotiations, saying “they took shots.”
He said those shots were bothersome and hurtful at times, but commended the board on taking the high road and staying positive “and keeping the end in mind.”
Aune said the “end in mind” in this case was everyone back to work on Monday and “delivering quality education to the kids.”