Larsen receives raise amidst teachers’ contract debate

By Ian Davis-Leonard | Jul 25, 2018
Mukilteo Superintendent Marci Larsen

With the Mukilteo School District and the Mukilteo Education Association (MEA) still at odds over the future of teachers’ salaries within the district, the school board gave Superintendent Marci Larsen a salary raise of her own earlier this month.

“The board has confidence in Marci, we think she has done an excellent job,” School Board President John Gahagan said. “Under her leadership with our excellent teachers on the front lines, the Mukilteo School District is one of the best districts in the state.”

The decision to raise Larsen’s salary comes at a contentious time within the district as teachers have spent the last few months requesting a pay increase due to additional funding made available to the school district because of the 2012 Washington State Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case.

According to Gahagan, the decision was a formality that occurs each July on a rolling rotation as part of Larsen’s contract.

“She’s really one of the most experienced and respected superintendents in the state and one of the longest serving,” Gahagan said of Larsen. He also noted her long tenure as superintendent of the Mukilteo School District as unusual and beneficial to the district’s success.

Additionally, Larsen’s raise fell in line with that of other district administrators who also were scheduled for a small pay increase.

“It’s not that we singled her out for a raise; it’s that all administrators receive a small raise on July 31,” he said.

Despite the extension, as recently as last month a resounding majority of MEA members voted that they did not have confidence in Larsen’s leadership through an electronic survey conducted by the MEA.

According to MEA President Dana Wiebe, 595 of 673 respondents – 88.41 percent – approved the no confidence vote.

Other responses included 29 respondents, 4.31 percent, who continue to have confidence in Larsen’s leadership and 49 respondents, 7.28 percent, who abstained.

The vote, however, did not sway the school board’s decision to provide Larsen with the raise and extension.

“We were concerned and dismayed that the union took that vote, but we do not share that feeling of no confidence,” Gahagan said. “I don’t know of any specific actions of Marci’s that have led to that vote. All I hear is that they have a feeling that the teachers aren’t respected, which I believe is merely because we are in a bargaining situation.”

Wiebe shares Gahagan’s belief, but doesn’t think the vote of no confidence should have been so easily discounted. She described it as “a logical move” to consider the findings when making such a large decision for the district.

“Our district leadership’s choice to use repeated roadblocks and excuses around the McCleary funding, instead of actively engaging with us to celebrate this joint victory, has appeared to damage the confidence MEA members have in our Mukilteo School District leaders,” Wiebe said.

Mukilteo School District spokesman Andy Muntz would not comment on the teacher’s vote, however he noted that Larsen plays a pivotal role in leading an organization with a budget of about $300 million and that employs about 2,000 people.

Wiebe said the MEA is still laser-focused on contract negotiations, and plans to do so in good faith when the two sides meet in early August.

“Our expectation is that the district arrives at the table ready to do the same,” Wiebe said. “Specifically, the district must be willing to negotiate proposals that are sustainable, comply with the law, and maintain Mukilteo as a leader in providing regionally competitive salaries that will help recruit and retain the best possible educators for our students.”

In June, MEA gave its bargaining team the authority to call a strike if no tentative agreement is made by Aug. 15.

Both Muntz and Gahagan believe a resolution will be reached in which teachers receive the raise they are looking for prior to the upcoming school year.

“We look forward to our continuing discussions to significantly increase the compensation of our teachers in a way that does not violate state law and that is sustainable over time,” Muntz said. “The bottom line is, those discussions will ultimately end with an agreement. Once that is done, we will continue to work together for the benefit of the students in Mukilteo classrooms.”

As for Superintendent Larsen, her contact will continue to be evaluated each July by the school board.

“The school board will decide again next summer if they would like to extend Larsen,” Gahagan said.








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