The Snoqualmie Valley School District averted a first-day-of-school teachers’ strike when it came to a contract agreement last week with the teachers’ union.
The three-year contract, which Snoqualmie Education Association President Art Galloway said moved teacher compensation “toward average” for East King County by the third year, was ratified by teachers Wednesday, Aug. 27 with a vote of 264-47. The school board unanimously approved the contract at its regular meeting Thursday evening, Aug. 28, to applause from the audience.
Board President Marci Busby called the contract “a sustainable solution, one that addresses the issues presented by the union, and at the same time, keeps student learning a top priority while maintaining the fiscal health of the district.”
Bargaining teams from the union and school district started negotiations in February, but struggled to reach agreements on teacher compensation and workload issues. Valley teachers are the lowest-paid on the Eastside. The district said that it values teachers, but is grappling with financial hardships, including a projected $1 million general operations budget shortfall heading into 2009-10.
On June 11, teachers voted to strike on the first day of school, Wednesday, Sept. 3, if a contract had not been ratified by then.
Jack Webber, who is entering his ninth year teaching in the district, called the agreement “fantastic,” adding that it addresses issues like planning time that had inhibited his ability to do his job.
“Now I can walk into the classroom and really, truly focus on the kids and education. The work environment has really been improved with this contract,” he said.
Galloway said some of the language and organization of the contract needed fine-tuning, but the content of the agreement was “a done deal” with which he was pleased.
“I was really proud that the district and the association worked really hard and collaboratively last night to come to an agreement that addresses the issue of fiscal responsibility and valuing teachers, and being able to attract and maintain those teachers,” he said after the union vote.