The teachers and school staff are part of a union that represents more than 5,000 members. Holding signs that included a letter addressed to Superintendent Jose Banda that asked for fairness and respect during negotiations, teachers and staff cited three major hurdles that were keeping them from accepting the new contract terms.
They claim the district is asking teachers to work longer hours, include test scores in teacher evaluations and increase case load for school therapists and nurses. Teachers said those things need to be changed before they step back into the classroom.
Rebecca Adams has been teaching elementary students for a dozen years and feels disrespected by the district’s proposal.
“It’s very insulting what they’re proposing for us — to work extra without pay,” she said. “We do that — not just a half hour a day — we work hours extra a day. We take work home with us.”
The SEA hopes to resume negotiations today and plan to address the media on the progress of the negotiations on Wednesday.
South Kitsap teachers voted Monday night to authorize a strike if an agreement cannot be reached by Sept. 1 with the school district to hire more teachers and reduce class size. The district cut the teaching force by 10 percent in May — a total of 57 teachers — in an effort to close a budget gap.
As a result, teachers said the average class size at South Kitsap High School this fall is projected to be about 35 students. Four classes are expected to have 40 or more students.
The union is in the midst of contract talks. Union officials said they have never considered a strike before but if class sizes don’t get smaller, a strike could happen.
Newly appointed Kitsap School District Superintendent Michelle Reid said there is about $1 million in discretionary funds that could be used to restore up to 15 teaching jobs. But she recently said she is not committing to any decision and wants to wait until Sept. 4, the first day of school, for the final enrollment numbers.
That date puts her at odds with the Sept. 1 deadline the teachers gave the district Monday night.
Reid issued a statement Monday that said: “While I am disappointed that the South Kitsap Education Association has chosen to strike, the District remains committed to reaching an agreement that is both educationally sound and fiscally responsible prior to the start of the upcoming school year.
“We realize and understand the potential impact a strike would cause to our school and community and are therefore focused on reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible. We will be returning to the bargaining process in the morning. I know we remain committed to resolving this contract dispute so that we can move forward together and support teaching and learning in the district.”
Tune into Q13 FOX News at 4 and 5 p.m. for updates on negotiations and hear from parents who are worried if their kids will start school on time.