Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) secretaries have been without a current contract for about two months.
While the current Snoqualmie Valley Administrative Secretaries Association (SVASA) contract expired Aug. 31, 2018, it is automatically extended through Aug. 31, 2019 in the absence of a successor agreement by Washington State law.
SVASA has been negotiating with SVSD since March on a successor agreement, but have yet to reach a tentative agreement. The district said the bargaining process was partially delayed by the availability of the district team in August and the SVASA team in September and October.
SVASA is wanting the district to pay their secretaries a “living wage,” according to SVASA president, Karen Seiser.
“A living wage means earning enough to pay for basic necessities: rent, food, utilities, childcare, healthcare and transportation. People who work full time should not have to live below the poverty line, nor should they have to hold multiple jobs or give up choices for themselves and their family because of financial hardships,” Seiser said.
SVSD teachers, secretaries, members of Snoqualmie Valley Education Association (SVEA) and Public School Employees (PSE) and other supporters formed an informal picket in front of City Hall before the Oct. 23 school board meeting. As cars passed by, a member chanted, “I say fair, you say now.”
“These secretaries are the beating heart of our schools,” Jim Ullman, a teacher at Twin Falls Middle School, said. “They’re the first point of contact for all students, parents… They’re the first person you talk to when you come to school.”
Rebekah McFarland, also a teacher at Twin Falls Middle School, said the way secretaries are treated in the district is unfair.
“Everyone else got their raises — teachers and administrators — and now it’s their turn,” she said. “They’re going way beyond the call of duty everyday to make everything run smoothly.”
According to Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) , secretaries in SVSD earn the least in comparison to neighboring school districts such as Lake Washington, Bellevue and Issaquah with their hourly wages averaging at $20.94.
Angela Krpata, a secretary for Chief Kanim Middle School, said she just wants secretaries to receive equal pay for the work they do.
“We deserve a substantial raise of four or five dollars,” she said.
Shannon Smith, a secretary to the principal at Snoqualmie Elementary School, stood on the street corner holding a sign that said, “SVASA Fair Contract Now!”
“The lack of respect we’re given by the district is just…they have no idea how many hours we put in,” she said. “They say we’re a dime a dozen, like we’re dispensable. I’m just so sad I have to be here and fighting for something that we should have.”
The district’s most recent proposal stands at a 14-percent increase in hourly wages over a three-year contract, with additional enhancements to vacation and health care benefits. Seiser said it’s closer to what they’re asking for, but not enough.
“We want a two-year contract that allows us to renegotiate after the two-year legislative budget cycle,” she said. “Our teachers received an average 16.7-percent raise this school year. The district is offering a lower increase for secretaries and doing it over the next three years. That is unacceptable.”
During the public comments period of the school board meeting, three members from SVASA delivered short statements to the board, venting their frustration. A bag of treats was delivered to each board member containing a Payday candy bar, a glue stick, a dime and tums and a member read aloud the following message.
“We sincerely thank you for your service on our school board and for the support you provide our families and students. In the spirit of October, we are delivering this bag of treats. In your bag are: a Payday candy bar because SVASA deserves a living wage that is not based on similar underpaid comparable positions in other districts. [A] glue stick because SVASA is the glue that holds the school and the district buildings together. [A] dime because we have been told we are a dime a dozen, and many people apply for SVASA open positions. [And] Tums because we are sick to our stomachs that the district continues to demonstrate that we aren’t worth a living wage.”
Seiser said that all they are asking is that the district invest the new state funding the way “it was intended — in professional pay for Snoqualmie Valley educators.”
The district and SVASA will meet again on Nov. 7 for further bargaining. The district said it “remains optimistic that a fair solution can be reached soon, and hopes for a productive discussion at the next session.”