SEATTLE — If you passed Eckstein Middle School during the Wednesday afternoon rush, you may have thought Seattle public school teachers were already on strike.
They’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best — that a deal can be reached before the first day of school Sept. 4.
“I’m really hoping so. I’d really like to get in the classroom and get to work with the kids,” teacher Kurt Grevstad said.
Most of the teachers we spoke with say they are optimistic that a deal will be reached.
Union leaders say the demonstration is meant to send a message that teachers want to be in the classroom with their children when school starts next week.
Rest for these teachers has been in short supply.
“I’m tired. I thought everything would be done last week so it’s hard to have it go on, but I’m really optimistic,” Seattle teacher Kristin Bailey-Fogarty said.
The good news is both sides are still talking, but if Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp has any idea how the negotiations are going, he’s not telling.
“I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t go down to Vegas and gamble. I just deal with what’s in front of me and that’s what’s happening at the bargaining table. The bargaining table is where the contract happens, that’s where the deal happens. We respect the process and we’re trying to work as hard as we can to get a fair contract for teachers,” Knapp said.
Sticking points include longer days for elementary school teachers with no additional pay.
Compensation is another big one, and even bigger is teacher evaluations that some say are unfair for them and that don`t help students.
Their contract is up on Saturday and school is supposed to start on Wednesday — again there is optimism both sides will step up and come to an agreement for the sake of students.
“I know that our district wants to support kids. All of the teachers want to be back at work when school starts and I’m just hoping the two sides can come together and create a tentative agreement so we can vote and get back to work,” Bailey-Fogarty said.
Meanwhile, parents like Marc Logue are caught in the middle.
“We’ll just have to make slight arrangements and we’ll deal with it. I think the issues they’re dealing with are important,” Logue said.
The district has told parents to prepare for a strike.
They believe the deal on the table is generous and good for teachers and students, but they, too, say they respect the process and will continue to negotiate as long as possible.