Snoqualmie Valley teachers, district make 11th hour deal on two-year contract

It took nearly 20 hours and almost $1 million, but Snoqualmie Valley School District staff and teachers were able to agree on a new two-year contract late Tuesday afternoon, August 23.

A majority of teachers ratified the proposed contract at a general membership meeting Tuesday, preventing a planned boycott of the district's Technology Day Wednesday.

"We have a two-year contract," Snoqualmie Valley Education Association President Art Galloway said Wednesday afternoon. Some language and a few minor things have yet to be resolved, he said, but the contract approved by the membership had "a high percentage of approval."

"For the most part, there wasn't any loss of money," Galloway added, "and there were very, very moderate improvements in a couple of our benefits."

The details of the contract include:

• Restoring the 1.9 percent pay cut imposed by the state legislature for both years of the contract

• Maintaining curriculum pay at $29 per hour this year, instead of a $3 proposed cut, and increasing the pay to $30 per hour next year

• Maintaining the amount of bereavement and sick leave teachers receive, instead of a proposed reduction

• Increased reimbursement for teachers' efforts to pursue certification

• An increased stipend for teachers to take on technology training, without adding hours to the work day

• A change in insurance to decrease teachers' out-of-pocket health care costs

• An improved "attract and retain" stipend for keeping long-term teachers at their posts.

In the first year of the contract, these changes will cost the district roughly $450,000 more from the general fund, said Finance Director Ryan Stokes, and about $500,000 the following year.

"We proposed a balanced budget, and with the cost of this settlement, we'll draw the fund balance down in the first year," he said. The school board adopted the 2011-12 budget Thursday, Aug. 18, so the general fund, projected to have a balance of $3.6 million on Aug. 31, must absorb the additional cost. In next year's budget process however, "There are some things we can do... to try to minimize the impact of the cost of settlement," Stokes said.

Galloway said the union was aware of the funding challenges many districts are facing, but because of the district's fund balance, nearly 7 percent of the entire $55 million budget, he said, "I don't think that this... will put the district in any kind of jeopardy."

He was pleased that furlough days were not part of the final contract, as a way of "making whole" the 1.9 percent state salary cut, saying, "The district did recognize the hard work and dedication... that was a good sign of respect and appreciation."

School Board President Dan Popp issued a statement saying the board was "extremely pleased with the outcome of the negotiation process."

Union members of the bargaining team were Lisa Radmer, negotiating lead, and Jim Ullman, Chris Jackson, and Nancy Byrnes. Representing the district at the bargaining table were Finance Director Ryan Stokes, Curriculum Director Don McConkey, Technology Director Jeff Hogan, Principal Dan Schlotfeldt, and Assistant Principal Marty Barber.

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