December 21, 1998
CARNATION--Both the Riverview District teachers and the classified employees have ratified agreements with the Riverview School District.
District officials and representatives from the teachers' union tentatively agreed on a three-year contract last week. The parties, working with a mediator, finalized talks at about 3 a.m. on Dec. 15.
The teachers had threatened to strike Jan. 7 if no agreement had been made. Both groups have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.
"We had a very good meeting," said Superintendent Dr. Jack Ernst. "We believe we have been able to accommodate the requests of the teaching staff that will benefit learning and still be within the financial means we have available."
Ernst said all issues had been on the table and were addressed, such as extra staff, class sizes, work loads, and planning.
Union President Adrian Lawrence, a Spanish teacher at Cedarcrest High School, said he was very happy that the tentative agreement had been reached.
"Essentially, the students will win," he said. "We were able to get language in the contract that dealt with maintaining reasonable class sizes, special needs students, and discipline. Class size was important, because Washington state has class sizes the fourth-worst in the nation."
For the PSE (classified) employees, whose ranks include bus drivers, secretaries, mechanics, aides, clerical staff, food service workers, and custodians, a tentative agreement was reached two weeks ago that was similar to the one offered Sept. 29, Ernst said.
That agreement was ratified by the employees, but needs school board approval. The board will make a decision at this week's meeting.
The classified employees' contract was enhanced with some other offers, such as paid first aid training. The district has also offered to work with the employees on benefit planning.
Many employees had complained that the one percent salary increase that had been offered Sept 29 would not be enough to cover the increase in health insurance premiums.
"We will be working with a district-wide committee to study benefit providers in hopes of getting the best deal for the employees," Ernst said.
Donna Lease, President of Riverview PSE, an affiliate of Public Schools Employees of Washington, said the employees ratified the agreement Dec. 9 with a vote of 68 "yes" and 12 "no."
She said the tentative agreement has four letters which include the following: 1) A PSE appointed member will serve on the district budget committee; 2) two members will serve on the insurance committee to review plans offered to members; 3) the district will pay the costs of CPR and first aid training that is required; and 4) custodians will be paid for security call-outs.
Although the employees initially asked for a 10 percent raise in the first year of a new agreement, the tentative agreement offers a one percent raise this year and next, plus "state flow-through," she said.
"The members spoke," she said. "They were ready to accept a contract. The members feel good that this was settled before Christmas so they know where they stand. But the legislators need to be encouraged to put more money into the educational process for the long haul."
Governor Gary Locke's proposed budget issued last week includes funding to hire 1,000 new teachers and a general pay increase for teachers.
Locke said his budget would help every child succeed in school by hiring new teachers, raising teacher standards and rewarding achievement by students, teachers and schools.
But teachers are complaining that the budget only offers them a 2 percent raise. Lawrence said teachers salaries are down 18 percent due to inflation over the last five to six years.
"Education reform has created tough standards," said Lawrence. "And if the state values education, it should pay a professional wage."