Snoqualmie Valley Teachers Overwhelming Reject District’s Latest Conceptual Contract Agreement

There are just eight days left until the Snoqualmie Valley School District begins the 2013-14 school year. Negotiations have been happening since June,  but the SVSD teachers union, SVEA, is still without a new contract.  Their current two-year contract expires on August 31st.

This morning, in a SVEA General Membership meeting, union members overwhelming voted to reject the school district’s latest “conceptual” contract agreement.

Union members did not vote on a tentative contract, only a concept agreement. Negotiations ran late the night before and negotiators decided to take a concept agreement to the union instead of spending hours more hammering out formal tentative contract language.

With the rejection, the union is instructing negotiators to go back to the bargaining table, essentially saying even the concept wasn’t good enough.

The new proposed agreement did, though, increase teachers’ annual pay by 1% (up from .5%) for each year of the proposed three-year contract.

A longtime SVSD teacher (who wishes to remain anonymous) said that fewer than 10 union members voted to accept the conceptual contract agreement, adding that there was “considerable dissatisfaction with non-money issues as well, much at the elementary school level.”

Currently only middle and high school class overload numbers are dealt with in contract language and many elementary school classes have seen significant size increase in recent years. One SVSD 2nd grade teacher commented on social media yesterday that his 2013-14 class is slated to be the largest he’s ever instructed and wants class size limits.

Also at issue are new health care laws, which require many teachers to pay more in premiums.  For some teachers, the 1% annual salary increase wouldn’t cover the new premium requirements; meaning some could actually make less next year.

According to another SVSD teacher, negotiators head back to the bargaining table tomorrow, August 28, 2013. The union has another general membership meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 3, 2013, to consider any new tentative contract offer presented by the Snoqualmie Valley School District.

In previous negotiation years, the union agreed that if the contract offer wasn’t acceptable, they could officially strike.  This year, no such strike agreement was put in place according to that same teacher. Hence, if no acceptable contract is presented, mediation may possibly be the next step.

SVSD School Board President Scott Hodgins commented, “I am confident we can come to a [contract] resolution as teachers are a priority for the school board.”

The SVSD school year is scheduled to begin Wednesday, September 4, 2013.

SVEA Union President, Lisa Radmer, at union rally at Twin Falls Middle School on 8/23/13.  Photo: SVEA Union website.
SVEA Union President, Lisa Radmer, at SVEA Union rally at Twin Falls Middle School on 8/23/13. Photo: SVEA Union website.

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  • The elementary school teachers are right to complain about huge class sizes. One elementary school teacher told me that their classes last year and the year before that were the largest this teacher had ever taught. This was a teacher with more than 20 years teaching experience. The teacher invited me to see the classroom. There was literally so many desks that there was hardly any space for students to walk between desks. The class sizes at our middle schools are also completely ridiculous. As I said at the last school board meeting, there should be class size limits – especially at our elementary schools. Our school district just got $3.7 million in additional funding from the legislature. Only a small fraction of that in the new budget went towards hiring more teachers.
    David Spring
    Parent, North Bend

    1. I am very sympathetic toward our teachers on most of their issues, particularly class sizes. Because there is no strategic business plan at SVSD, there has been no associated discussion by our school board and administration on priorities of the things that are most important for fulfilling the mission of our school district. Meanwhile, our sister districts of Bellevue, Issaquah, River View, Renton and others have had such discussions and have developed strategic plans. And guess what: they have all come to the conclusion, supported by the many research studies available, that reducing class sizes is of paramount importance in improving student learning & academic outcomes. That means more teachers, not laying off teachers or trying to maintain the same number of teachers when we are experiencing growth in student enrollment. Also, in all professions you largely get what you pay for. If we want to recruit talented, effective teachers, provide on-going professional development to improve the performance of all of our existing teachers, minimize the number of teachers leaving for greener pasture elsewhere, all of which are proactive going concerns in other professions, it requires a monetary investment. Spending teacher money in the General Fund on much less important non-teacher things has been a long-time practice in SVSD that needs to change. I’m hoping that a change in the school board directors this coming November will set the stage for that change, and David Spring is just such a change that will upgrade our school board.
      Stephen Kangas
      Education Activist and Parent

  • Open letter to Snoqualmie Valley School Board members:
    August 26th, 2013

    Unfortunately I need to email each of you my extreme disappointment over what is apparently, at the moment, the failure of the School Board’s negotiation team’s ability to reach a tentative agreement with the teacher’s Association.

    What is even more unsettling is the fact that yet again, the negotiations have been in process for many months and once again we arrive at the last minute crisis, which is to no stakeholders benefit, least of all the teacher’s and the students.

    Input from almost every member of our Association was sought out last year as early as January and the overwhelming teacher and student needs were once again:

    1. Class Sizes: Decrease, or at a minimum maintenance of, work load requirements that grow exponentially with increasing Class sizes, so teachers can provide students with a high quality lesson and holistic quality program.

    2. Teacher only Time: Increase in amount of “teacher directed time” to perform increased work requirements and a decrease in the amount of “building directed time” and “District Directed time”, not only on early release, but throughout the week and year, so teachers can focus on students needs and have time to plan how to effectively implement the massive changes in curriculum and technology.

    3.Comparable Compensation: No more, but certainly no less compensation for the continuing, significant increase in hours over contract that need to be put in to simply do the required job so teachers can offer students a respected, dedicated vs burned out under valued professional as a daily role model.

    As I understand it, those teacher and student priorities apparently are not matching any of the priorities being currently put forth by the board’s negotiation team and appear to be currently discounted with no substantive proposals to even begin to address them.

    So we are basically back where we started several months ago.

    I of course as a professional and private citizen in our community am very well aware and do empathize with the short and long term financial needs and state mandated priorities of the board. I experience the ramifications of them continually both as a professional and as a private taxpayer in the district.

    My issue tonight however, is that in my role as our building representative, while thoroughly vetting our negotiation team continually since negotiations started and specifically as recently as this afternoon, it seems to me that there continues to be after numerous months and collaborative proposals from our association’s negotiators, no apparent leadership or accepted responsibility on the part of the board’s negotiation team to present collaborative proposals that will begin to address these three basic working condition needs. In fact it appears that the district’s response has continually been one of discount, which has now resulted in our current state of conflict.

    Given the late hour and severe need, I encourage and implore you to do whatever is necessary to provide the district’s negotiation team with direction on at least beginning to address these three vital teacher priorities.
    In the vain of collaboration not conflict I suggest that the priorities become:

    1. Real, tangible mitigation for the increase workload created by constantly increasing unmanageable class sizes at all levels so teachers can serve students needs.
    2. Significant decreases in time consumed by other activities and meetings that prevent teachers from being able to get the job done during a normal working day and thus creating an unnecessary need to continually work off the clock to serve student needs.
    3. At a minimum, a compensation package that at least keeps up with the cost of living and increased benefit costs and acknowledges the continually increasing number of additional hours that are being worked out of the contract just to keep up with all the new requirements.

    I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you donate for our students and community. I now ask that you convey priorities to your negotiation team that demonstrate you are equally dedicated to also doing all you can to adequately provided for the needs of your staff.

    We have given you all we have got year after year and have the results to show for it. Now it you turn to please do the same.


    Jack Webber Two Rivers School Teacher and Snoqualmie citizen.

  • Thanks for sharing, Jack. I’ll add my recent email to the board as well.

    I am a 2nd grade teacher at Snoqualmie Elementary School.

    I am writing to explain my decision to reject the conceptual agreement and describe what I need to vote for any future tentative agreement.

    It’s about class size. I need a contractual commitment to reducing class size across all grade levels as state funding for basic education grows. I need contractual equity between elementary and secondary level teachers.

    The Legislature is committed to fully funding basic education by 2018. A large part of this requirement includes phasing in increased funding intended to reduce class size. At this time our district is provided state funds to offer class sizes of 25.23 in K-3 and 27.0 in 4-6. I need a contractual commitment that the district will cap class size at no more than the state funded level and tie this cap to future state funded class size levels.

    I realize that there will be isolated instances in which class size may be above the state funded level. This must be the exception. I am hopeful the new language in the conceptual agreement will minimize these instances. However, our current contract provides secondary teachers with additional support or compensation for the increased workload that results from larger class sizes. As an elementary level teacher, I need contractual equity between all levels.

    It’s all about class size.

    Thank you for all your work to provide our students with what they need to learn.

    Nate Ziemkowski

  • This district has award winning schools staffed with very talented, excellent teachers. These teachers simply cannot continue to provide quality, individualized instruction when their class sizes are increasing every year. At the elementary level, there are no limits on how many students can be placed in a single classroom. The more individualized instruction and care given to elementary student’s means greater success in later years. Snoqualmie Valley teachers are standing up and speaking out for the rights of their students to get the best education- each and every day.
    Lisa Radmer
    President of the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association

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