Strike Update: Teachers, District Prepare for Strike as Negotiations Continue

Tick Tock.  Tick Tock.  The Snoqualmie Valley teacher’s union strike deadline of Sunday at 3PM is quickly approaching.

Following union advice, some SVSD teachers removed personal belongings from their classrooms on Friday, preparing for a possible strike which would lock them out of their schools.  Pets, plants, medications and personal belongings were carted out at the end of the day.

Local community centers also prepare to offer emergency childcare for working parents, including the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA and Si View Parks  Teachers are preparing strike signs with help from the Washington Education Association.  Picketing locations are also being scouted.

All while negotiations between the SVEA teacher’s union and the Snoqualmie Valley School District continue.

Early Friday morning, September 6th, SVSD announced they had increased their salary package to 2% for each year of the three-year contract.  They also announced elementary class size targets of: 25 students per class in kindergarten; 27 students for grades 1-3; and 29 students for 4th and 5th grade classes.  Once class size goes past the target, teachers can receive extra compensation up to $1,800 per year.

The SVEA website responded by saying, “After more than six hours of mediation Thursday night, the district still refuses to put any meaningful cap on elementary class sizes. They suggest that granting us one-time bonuses for overcrowded classes somehow meets their responsibility to offer an adequate education to students who will now be too easily overlooked in the back corners of our rooms.”

Teams negotiated on Friday for another five hours, and it appeared there was hope.  The district reported, “The teams spent the evening working on the mechanics of the compensation related to elementary class size. Both teams plan to reconvene on Saturday, September 7, at noon to continue their work in an effort to negotiate a contract settlement.”

The union, though, now says that special needs students were not included in the negotiated class target number, which stalled negotiations.  The SVEA website says, “That progress stalled when the district introduced a plan that refused to acknowledge the existence of special-ed students.”

The SVSD website is now updating parents on how to stay informed in the event of a strike. (See below.)  The SVEA website is also informing parents how they can show their support to teachers if do end up on a picket line.

Teachers have been told to be prepared for a 7PM union meeting to vote on tentative contract – if one is reached.  They will be notified of that meeting before the Sunday 3PM strike deadline.

How will families be informed that school is cancelled?

If the union declares a strike, the district will immediately work to notify its families through a variety of communication tools, so parents will have as much time as possible to prepare and make other arrangements for their children. The district will:

  • post the update on the District website: www.svsd410.org
  • send an email notification via District E-News
  • post a link to the website headline onto Twitter: @SnoqValleySD
  • record a message that people can access on the District hotline: 425-831-8494
  • initiate the district’s emergency call-out system to send a message to all parent cell and home phone numbers in our database. Parents, please make sure your schools have your current numbers on record.
  • plus, media coverage
SVSD teacher rally on 8/23/2013 at Twin Falls Middle School.  Photo from SVEA webstie

SVSD teacher rally on 8/23/2013 at Twin Falls Middle School

Comments

  1. Great! So I guess my daughter who has been on an IEP for six years, doesn’t or hasn’t ever existed. Nice going SVSD!

    • Lindsay Greene says

      She matters to us… to teachers…. we support, care for and want the absolute best for all of our students. We do not want more money or more planning time to compensate for class size we simply want what is best for EVERY STUDENT… Pia we care….

  2. Interesting how 2 different websites gives you different info. I stopped going to the district website a while ago. Their reports of the contracts offered, seem a lot different then what they really are.

  3. As the parent of of a child who has been subjected to extremely large class sizes, I agree with the teachers that there has to be some firm upper limit on class sizes – not merely targets. This is particularly true for our elementary school students. Any one teacher can only do so much and too many young kids are slipping through the cracks. No amount of extra pay can make up for a teacher that is too exhausted to meet the needs of every child in their class. Other nearby school districts have firm class size limits. So should we.
    David Spring, Parent, North Bend

  4. Ruth Edwards says

    As a special education teacher in the Snoqualmie Valley School District I was appalled to hear this morning that the district now suggests that our special needs students should NOT be included in class size counts. This is when this negotiation got personal for me. It is the right of ALL children to be given an opportunity to access the general education curriculum to the fullest extent possible. I have spent my teaching career working to collaborate with my general education coworkers in order to achieve this goal. These students should be counted! Now, I might be persuaded to understand the district’s point of view if all of our students receiving specialized services in the district were in special education self contained classrooms. But this is NOT the case nor should it be! At the beginning of this school year I was thrilled to hear that one of my students passed the Science portion of the state’s Measurement of Student Progress (MSP). I would like to think that this student’s 5th grade teacher and I working together to help this student access the science curriculum might have had something to do with her success on this exam. But according to the district’s proposal, this child would NOT count.

    Respectfully,
    Ruth Edwards

    • Charissa Wakeford says

      Ruth,
      I can’t begin to thank you enough for all you do for the children in our district. The sweat and the tears you put into your job is humbling. You make a huge difference in these children’s lives and it is noticed by many. Special Education teachers like you keep these kids from being left behind. You count and your kids count. Your worth is far greater than your wage. We acknowledge that and we are behind you 100%.

    • Naomi Irish says

      Ruth, thank you for being the voice for our children and standing up for what’s right!

  5. I cannot believe any school district would think it’s ok to allow 25 to 29 kids in a classroom. That’s crazy! Then not to include the specials needs kids in that count. Wow! I’m glad I do not teach in that area!

  6. I think that the district is being unfairly represented here. No one has mentioned the fact that our class sizes are in line with what the state funds–25.2 in K-3 and 27 in 4-6. I don’t think our class sizes are horrific–in most cases they meet the standard and are below that size in many cases. The district has to use local levy dollars to make up the difference between what the state covers–only teachers’ base salary–and what the teachers actually earn, which is, on average 10K above what the state funds, or 3.5M per year in our district. The district has a finite number of dollars to spend on salaries, buildings, etc. Why doesn’t our community rally to raise taxes to help make up the shortfall from the state OR better yet, come together against the state and show them how much we love our teachers and want them to be compensated. We’re all forgetting that our teachers and our district are on the same team. Do we want a district that isn’t fiscally responsible? Of course they’re concerned about when and how their money is allocated. It can’t ALL go to salaries. Then we’d all be whining when programs needed to be cut or buildings couldn’t be updated. Let’s stop this conversation from being so divisive and come together in support of our teachers and a district that is that is trying to meet the needs of students, teachers and the community.

    • Danna McCall says

      I think in many cases our classes do come in line with those state standards – and I don’t believe the district wants large class sizes bc it too knows the benefits of smaller class sizes. But if the state standards are K-3: 25 and 4th & 5th are 27 and we are setting our targets as K: 25, 1-3 at 27 and 4-5 at 29 – isn’t that higher than the state standards? I know it’s complicated, but looking at the numbers, the only thing the average person sees is that we’re setting our targets higher than the state. We all want a fiscally responsible district. It’s too bad the teachers contract had to be negotiated in a year we also had to add new administration salaries and the additional funding required for the freshman campus. It’s been a lot to deal with for those that manage the SVSD budget.

  7. Kristen Mattoni says

    I get the arguments on both sides but what I don’t understand is how increasing pay really helps students learn or adding teachers would help class size. More money, sure that’s nice for teachers and they certainly deserve it but at what cost to their stress levels and to the students who still would get lost among the masses. Then where would we put more teachers? You mean to tell me there are classrooms just sitting empty in our current schools? I haven’t heard a peep about that if that’s truly the case. So then we talk temporary buildings? That’s a short term fix and, in my opinion, not an optimal learning environment. What we need is for this community to stand together and pass a bond to build more schools!

    Kristen Mattoni
    Mother of a Kindergartener who is REALLY looking forward to starting school tomorrow

    • Danna McCall says

      There are places with empty classrooms. I believe CVES added a new portable this summer – two classrooms – and it’s being used for Hi-C, and not everyday. Could be wrong, though. I believe the most empty classrooms are at the main MSHS campus though.

  8. I understand the issue and I certainly support smaller class sizes and think it is very important… but they had all summer to work this out. Now we are going to create a real challenge for all families in the district and start cutting into next summer when camps and vacations are already planned. It won’t take a very long strike (coupled with a couple snow days) and we will be in school well into July. That is adding insult to injury here. All other districts in the state were able to work out their issues and not effect the school year.

    One more thing… people need to support their schools and VOTE appropriately. How does this incredible child-focused community keep voting down school bonds?? Enough.

  9. All,
    Below is an open letter I have sent to all members of the Snoqualmie Valley School District School Board.
    Jack Webber-Teacher and Resident of Snoqualmie.

    Dear SVSD School Board member.

    Unfortunately it appears we are within hours of a strike.

    What is currently being done is not working and unless it is changed will continue not to work.

    I encourage you to step forward and change that. Please take the leadership necessary to move us beyond this impasse.

    Even though collaboration not conflict is your goal as well as ours, extreme conflict is where we are headed if you do not take action immediately.

    Any final settlement that will most likely eventually end a strike will in all likelihood be an agreement we could have today if you take the same action today. Teachers are going to have the same issue and the same stance regardless of how long the strike may take. Thus the final settlement will most likely be the same as it needs to be today.

    Please take the leadership actions necessary to prevent this “no return” event from happening. We have already given all we have. Only your actions can prevent a strike at this point. Unfortunately it appears that only extreme actions on our part can now create enough pressure to change the balance of priorities.

    You hired everyone at the table at the moment, we elected the teachers at the table, and paid for the WEA professional to help them find a solution.

    We both are in control of this outcome. We have already communicated with our negotiators in a 291-8 vote, not to settle unless class sizes are adequately dealt with. The current offer posted on the district website does NOT do that.

    We still stand solidly behind our negotiations team today as we did then. Not including special Ed in a count, having a single day yearly count, allowing for continually rising unlimited sizes throughout the year etc. all is no where near adequate. It is not about money, it is about bodies in the classroom.

    You are well aware of the teacher’s request and we are well aware of your decisions to spend money on other priorities. You get us, we get you, the real question at the moment is Now What?

    No amount of posturing or public rhetoric on either side will change either position and a strike will only harden them and make a settlement further from reach.

    Please act now not later.

    May I share the following personal and professional perspectives:

    1. High school and middle school teachers are united to support elementary teachers in reducing class sizes and will strike as long as it takes to make that happen as it eventually affects each and everyone of us.

    2. Special Education and Two Rivers staff are united behind reducing elementary class size because the unintended long term effect often becomes a contributing factor to why they do not succeed in Middle and High School and end up on our door step instead.

    3. Teachers are prepared for an extended strike as negative as it will be for everyone and once it starts, it will take much more to settle it then than now.

    4. The money currently exists to solve the issue even though using it creates problems elsewhere. Class size needs to be the top priority to prevent a strike.

    Thank you for your service and I empathize with you being in this situation, please also understand we are feeling the same pressure, but are resolved as well.

    Looking forward to your immediate actions.

    Respectfully,

    Jack Webber

  10. Regarding class sizes and how they align with current state objectives — all of the third grade classes at SES have 28 or 29 students, to the best of my knowledge. So while some classes may not be overcrowded, my son’s is, which makes this very personal to me and all of his classmates’ parents.

  11. According to the teachers union website, the situation at SES has gone from bad to worse. Not only are there 29 kids in each of the 3rd grade classes, but administrators cut one of the second grade teachers and turned her classroom into a storage space. There are many other problems faced by many other teachers. For example, one third of the high school teachers have lost their planning period due to being required to shuttle back and forth between MSHS and the isolated 9th grade campus. Meanwhile more than one million dollars of the additional State funds were used to hire more administrators and increase the end fund balance. If the teachers do vote to strike, it will be due to shocking stories like these. The teachers are simply trying to defend the right of all of our kids to an adequate education. I hope there is school tomorrow. But if there is a strike instead, we should all join the teachers on the picket line.

  12. Can’t we just realign school boundaries to get to the state mandated class size…Oh wait many parents put up a big stink in having to move elementary schools. Which schools are over crowded? My guess is the ones where folks refused to move!!

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