Northwest NEWS

September 2, 2002

Front Page

No endless summer for Northshore students

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   It was an occasion. An event, really. The only thing missing was balloons.
   Scott McLean, a social studies teacher at Northshore Junior High, played the bagpipes as Northshore Education Association teachers streamed into Bothell's Cedar Park Assembly of God to vote on a two-year contract.
   A sea of happy, talkative teachers filled the beautiful church. There were hugs and "how ya' doin's" as teachers moved down the aisles to take their seats. Over 1,000 teachers were present. The Association has 1,200 members.
   Aaron Feik, Association president, chaired the general membership meeting held that evening, Aug. 27. His and others' speeches were punctuated with bursts of applause, cheers and whistles.
   More than an hour into the meeting, after the Association's bargaining team gave their report on the tentative agreement reached with the district - and after time for questions and discussion - the NSEA took a voice vote on the contract before them.
   Teachers overwhelmingly approved it. A strike was averted. School will begin as planned on Sept. 4.
   And teachers filed out of the church to strains of Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" blaring on the sound system.
   "I'm pleased we're going back to work," said a Maywood Hills teacher. "Our job is to communicate and educate," she said. "We belong in the classroom."
   "Yes, I'm OK with the contract," said a career counselor at Woodinville High.
   The new contract adds a counselor at each of the district high schools.
   The counselor said, "This bargaining committee worked as hard as any group I've ever seen. I'm very proud of them."
   A music specialist at Moorlands Elementary had concerns that the music program at her school - cut three years ago by 20 percent - would not be reinstated.
   "There was no wording to resume or increase time for music," she said.
   Feik described the negotiations as "intense, long, very frustrating ... and very gratifying."
   In fact, the bargaining parties met for 29 sessions (eight with a mediator) between March 7 and Aug. 27 when a tentative agreement was reached at 3:40 a.m., the very day teachers chose as a deadline to approve a contract or take a strike vote.
   The value of the contract is some $3.2 million dollars. A few of the salient agreements made are as follows:
   * Teachers will receive the state 3.6 percent COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) increase. In addition, those who have supplemental contracts, such as department heads, heads of academic clubs, etc., will receive a 3.6 percent COLA increase. Special education teachers and designated specialists will receive a $600 stipend annually.
   Elementary teachers are guaranteed 45 minutes of continuous planning time within the student day.
   "In order to accomplish this," said Steele, "the district will have to hire 10.5 certificated teachers at a cost of $682,500."
   The district will restore a Learning Improvement Day that the state Legislature took away earlier this year when it tried to balance the state budget. According to Steele, restoring that day will cost the district $745,000.
   The contract also provides a supplemental day for teachers to work collaboratively. This, said Steele, will cost $353,000.
   Each of the high schools will receive an additional counselor, costing the district $216,000.
   The district will pay a portion of health care increases.
   Safety committees will be formed in each building with training dollars available for safety coordinators.
   A Joint Labor Management Council can review all changes in program, curriculum, workload.
   In a speech to the School Board announcing the ratification of the contract, Feik said, "Thank you for your willingness to recognize that Northshore's teachers are partners in this district. We intend to move forward - together with you - to make this district one of the best in the nation."
   "We are greatly relieved that our teachers' contract is settled," said Pamela Steele, director of communications for the Northshore School District, "and school will begin as scheduled on Sept. 4. We don't believe, however, that this is the end of challenging times. Educators across the state are becoming increasingly concerned about the way our schools are funded. We can't keep raising expectations and pushing for accountability without giving educators the tools to do the job. Tools that were created in the 70s don't meet the reality of today's rapidly changing and increasingly technological society. The definition of basic education needs to be re-examined and how we fund our schools needs to be overhauled. It's time to get real!" said Steele.