Teachers file grievance over salary contract

Local instructors believe they should be able to bargain for new deal
By Brandon Gustafson | May 09, 2018

Teachers in the Mukilteo School District are upset about their salaries.

Following the Washington State Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, school districts throughout Washington will receive additional money from the state in order to help fully fund education.

As shown in a newsletter from Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, who lives in Mukilteo, part of that funding was to fully fund teacher salaries by the 2018-2019 school year, rather than have some portion of teacher salaries funded through levies.

Chris Williams, a teacher at Harbour Pointe Middle School, said the Mukilteo Education Association (MEA) asked to bargain for increased salaries due to the new money that’s to be received by the Mukilteo School District, but the district declined.

Consequently, the MEA filed a grievance against the district late last week.

“Despite having specific language in our contract that states, ‘Each January and June as of the effective date of this contract, the District in consultation with the Association will review the need for adjustments to the salary schedule to maintain salary compliance with applicable State statutes and regulations,’ they refuse to meet,” Williams said in a Facebook post.

Williams also said he and other teachers have heard Mukilteo is the only district in the state to not open up bargaining.

Williams initially heard the Mukilteo School District would receive around $32 million from the state for the McCleary ruling, but a later email obtained by the Beacon from the MEA showed they believe the district will be receiving more than $50 million more from the state for the 2018-2019 school year.

Williams said giving 15 percent raises to teachers would equate to around $13 million of that money.

Williams has been a part of the bargaining process with the Mukilteo School District before, and felt they had been open to bargaining in the past; thus he is upset with what he and other teachers see as a sudden change of direction.

“Switching gears like this, it’s disheartening. It’s a slap in the face,” Williams said. “It’s tough to think about all the hard work we’ve done at the bargaining table in the past - sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning, just to get that contract done.”

Williams said a large reason he and other teachers come to the Mukilteo School District is because they pay well.

“Mukilteo has a lot of money that attracts good teachers. That’s how I came here,” Williams said. “Voters and taxpayers want good teachers in their district. This is all really frustrating for a lot of Mukilteo teachers. Part of the reason that Mukilteo kids get a good education is because we pay more for good teachers.

“If other districts pay teachers well, teachers are going to leave. Teachers aren’t going to want to come here.”

Mukilteo School District spokesman Andy Muntz said the district is still unsure of how much they will receive from the state, and said they want to pay their teachers well.

“We agree that our teachers should receive some of the money that resulted from the changes in the state law,” Muntz said. “We support our teachers and believe in providing competitive salaries to our teachers so that we will attract the most qualified instructors to our classrooms. That’s why our teachers are among the highest paid in the state.

“We have already approached the MEA to confer about compensation and about scheduling a professional development day that the Legislature added to teacher work calendars.”

“The new law adds a Professional Learning Day (PLD),” MEA President Dana Wiebe said. “By not bargaining with us, the district is delaying the finalization of our 2018-2019 school calendar. I mention this because not only do my members want to know their work year for 2018-2019, the community, including our parents, also are requesting this information.”

Williams said that teachers don’t want to “confer” instead of bargain because it isn’t legally binding.

Muntz said the Mukilteo School District declined to bargain because they’re in the middle of a current contract.

“What we’ve told the MEA is that we have declined their demand to reopen negotiations on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that we already have in place,” Muntz said. “Our three-year contract with the MEA is only in its second year. It doesn’t expire until Aug. 31, 2019.”

Muntz said they are one of only two districts in Snohomish County who aren’t on a contract year, and that most other districts will be renegotiating this summer regardless.

Williams said he’d heard from other teachers in the district that some members of the Mukilteo School Board were unaware of the Mukilteo School District’s decision to outright decline bargaining a new contract.

“If this didn’t come from the board, who decided this?” Williams asked. “The buck stops with Marci Larsen. She has never come to the bargaining table in the last four bargains I’ve been a part of.”

Wiebe echoed Williams’ thoughts.

“Since 2004, I have been a member of our bargaining teams,” Wiebe said. “Together, MEA and MSD have proudly negotiated several strong contracts to attract and retain top educators for our district.

“I’d always considered MEA and MSD to be collaborative partners, yet something has shifted over the last couple of years to where the district is becoming more adversarial towards its teachers and ESAs. My members believe that this change in practice is coming from the top.”

In Williams’ Facebook post, he gave names and contact information of several members of the Mukilteo School District, including Superintendent Marci Larsen.

“Everyone I listed on my Facebook post, I’ve personally sat down with except for Marci,” Williams said. “People at the district seem reasonable when we get to the bargaining table. I knew in bargaining with them if there was something we were at odds on, there was always a possibility of discussion later. It’s rare they’re just outright declining.”

Muntz said the idea that the school board wasn’t made aware of the ongoing situation is false.

“As for the school board not knowing, I don’t know where that came from,” Muntz said. “The school board has been kept informed about this issue, and were told beforehand in a closed session that the MEA’s demand to reopen the contract was going to be declined.”

Williams said plenty of teachers at Harbour Pointe Middle School took a personal day last Friday, when they were supposed to be training for the SBA testing.

According to Williams’ Facebook, about two-thirds of teachers at the school took a personal day, and most of the staff that did work that day wore red in support of the teachers.

“We may not go to the actual testing days either,” Williams said. “If we have personal days to take, we may use them on those days as well.”

Williams said the public outreach has been great so far, and said many people who work for the Mukilteo School District such as school board members have been receiving a flurry of emails and phone calls over the last two weeks.

There is also a school board meeting on May 14, and Williams expects a lot of teachers and parents to show up.

“May 14 is the next school board meeting. We’re expecting a big turnout,” Williams said. “We’re trying to make it as big as possible. If you’ve been there, you know that it’s not a very big room.”

Williams hopes the district will end up coming to the bargaining table after seeing how upset teachers in the district are.

“They need to do the right thing and sit down as a team with us and work this out,” Williams said. “We don’t want it to be a fight. We don’t want unnecessary conflict. Let’s work inclusively.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | May 09, 2018 19:31

Good to see a grievance and not an illegal teacher's strike.  An illegal teacher's strike just will create no winners and cause regional chaos.



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