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Snoqualmie Valley teachers ready to strike?

NORTH BEND — Snoqualmie Valley teachers were ready to strike on the issue of class sizes, teacher pay.

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mount si highSEATTLE — A deal is done between the Snoqualmie school district and the teacher’s union and parents are giving out their opinions on the new deal and the classroom sizes at area schools.

After months of negotiating, the district and its teachers agreed on a deal Sunday afternoon. The new, three-year contract includes a raise for educators. The contract also imposes caps on classroom sizes but give the district the opportunity to go beyond those caps.

If a teacher has a class that exceeds the limit that teacher receives more pay. Parents we spoke with are happy that their child’s education will not be disrupted by a teacher strike.

However, parents we spoke with wished class sizes were smaller and worry about the cap on class size.

Cindy Struelens said class sizes are very important to her. “Because the teachers get overwhelmed if they’re big and they can’t pay attention to the class,” Struelens said. “Your education isn’t going to be great if you have an over-stuffed class. “

Other parents agree. Bill Swan said, “If it gets too big how is the teacher then able to keep control of things and get across the curriculum that they need to.”

It could take several days before the district is able to shrink some classrooms in size. The new contract was ratified by almost 60% of the union Sunday night. Now, the Snoqualmie School District has to find room in the budget for these new raises over the next three years.

SNOQUALMIE — It was the news for which parent Kim baker had been hoping.

That teachers and the district finally came to an agreement and kids will be back in the classroom, rather than having teachers out on strike.

“I think that’s great because all students deserve the right to have an education. It’s great. I wish they hadn’t waited till the last minute, would have been nice to have done this before. I mean if they don’t have kids in the building, they don’t have paychecks,” parent Kim Baker said.

snoqual teachersThe district, last week, agreed to teachers’ demands for higher pay, offering a six percent increase over three years, but the final sticking point that brought negotiators to the brink of a strike was elementary classroom size.

Teachers wanted a cap because say they believe a smaller class size is better for students and more conducive for learning.

“I’ve had class sizes that were 22 and I’ve had class sizes that were 30 and when it’s 22 students I can reach all of my kids’ needs. When it’s 30 it’s very difficult to do so,” teacher Cassie McLellan said.

In the end the district offered to put caps on elementary class size and triggers that would increase teacher pay for oversize classrooms.

In the end 59 percent of teachers said yes and the contract was approved.

“It feels really good. I’m looking forward to being with my kids tomorrow,” teacher L.K. Henley said.

The district admits smaller classes cost more money.

So now with a new contract in place the focus for the district will turn to how to pay for it.

“The agreement that we reached was a stretch and we will need to look at our budgeting priorities over the next three years to make some adjustments to make this happen,” Snoqualmie Valley School District spokesperson Carolyn Malcolm said.

Clearly, with what amounts to a 60/40 vote, not everyone was happy and most believe the legislature needs to do more to address class sizes.

Although approved by the teachers the deal still has to be approved by the Snoqualmie Valley School Board, but that is said to be pretty much a formality.

Snoqualmie valley Teacher voteSNOQUALMIE — Just after 8 p.m. the more than 300 teachers represented by the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association vote to accept the District’s latest contract offer.

The big sticking point was elementary school class sizes.

There has never been language in the teachers contract that addressed k-5 class size.  Now there is.

Details tonight on Q13 Fox News at 9 and 10pm.

295 votes for 174 – 120 no 59 yes

Snoqualmie Valley TeachersSNOQUALMIE — Teachers in the Snoqualmie Valley School District have reached a tentative agreement with the district in a new three year contract. The deal came about a half hour after the 3pm deadline had passed. Sources say the district presented a final offer in the moments before the deadline and Union negotiators approved. Teachers are expected to vote on the deal tonight at 7pm at Mt. Si High School.

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY – Snoqualmie Valley teachers prepared to strike as negotiations continued in the district office late into Saturday night.

Unified teachers made posters and picket signs getting ready to strike on Monday if a deal is not made by Sunday.

“They need more time with their students,” said Snoqualmie Valley Education Association President Lisa Radmer.

The 11th hour bargaining between the union and the district is focused on elementary class sizes.

“Last year we had classes with 30 to 33 third graders and fifth graders, that is just too many,” said Radmer.

The district says hiring more teachers is not an option. Teachers with large class sizes instead could be offered more planning time or an additional $1,800 a year.

“Teachers have been fairly clear they don’t need more pocket money for more kids in their classroom,” said Radmer.

Some parents say they are backing the teachers all the way.

“Teachers are looking out for their best interest and want to make sure what is best for them,” said parent Shyanne Olsen.

Parent Dan Gelhaye also wants smaller class sizes but he doesn’t agree with a strike.

“It’s really disruptive to parents’ schedules and kids,” said Gelhaye.

He says the timing of negotiations should change for good.

snoqualmie“Have these contracts expire in the spring when the kids are getting out of school as opposed to the fall, I understand teachers use that as leverage but it’s not really fair to everyone involved,” said Gelhaye.

If there is no school on Monday Gelhaye says it will be hard to explain the situation to his 8 year-old after three days of school already getting to know new friends and teachers.

“Waiting and hoping,” said Gelhaye.

But teachers are promising to strike if there is no deal by 3 p.m. Sunday.

On Friday teachers packed away their classrooms and walked out with their belongings in case of a strike.  The two sides so far have come to the middle one one issue so far. The district has offered teachers a 6% pay increase over the next three years. The union says that they are not fighting those figures.

The negotiations started at noon Saturday and ended at 9 p.m. without an agreement. The two sides will be back at the bargaining table at 9 a.m. Sunday.

SNOQUALMIE- — Kids in Snoqualmie Valley have spent three days getting back into the swing of school, but if no contract deal is reached by 3 p.m. Sunday, teachers will go on strike and no one will go to school Monday morning.

strikeSnoqualmie Valley School District spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm said Friday they have offered the union a 6% raise over three years.  Elementary class size targets are now 25 students for kindergarten, 27 for first through third grade and 29 for fourth and fifth grades.  The union says “targets” aren’t good enough.

“The offer the district put on their website this morning is still language that allows them to put as many kids in a classroom as they want to,” said Lisa Radmer, spokeswoman for the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association, the teachers’ union.

The district says if classes are bigger than that, those teachers will get an additional $1,800 a year — or three planning days.

“Teachers have told me numerous times they don’t want the extra cash for an overload of students.  They want to give quality instruction,” Radmer said.

With growing enrollment and limited resources, the district said there’s only so much that can be done.

“There are some districts that will have a cap on a class size, and if there is an additional student they will move them to another school that’s nearby.  We don’t think that’s a solution for our families or in the best interest of our students,” Malcolm said.

Around 4 p.m. Friday a group of teachers at North Bend Elementary School walked out carrying personal belongings in boxes.  If teachers do strike, they won’t have access to their buildings.

There was a bargaining session planned for 4:30 p.m. Friday.

strikeSNOQUALMIE –  In its latest offer to the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association, district officials have offered a 6 percent salary increase over three years, with 2 percent increases each year vs. the 4 percent it had previously offered.

The two issues that remain unsettled in the negotiation process are related to locally funded compensation and elementary class sizes.  Teachers get paid different amounts depending on their experience (years of service) and their education level.

In addition, some teachers take on additional responsibilities and receive stipends or hourly compensation for that extra work; those stipends are not reflected on the composite salary schedules linked below.

Both district and union proposals for elementary class size “triggers” are as follows:

    • Kindergarten: target 25 or fewer students (26 or more trigger additional compensation)
    • Grades 1-3: target 27 or fewer students (28 or more trigger additional compensation)
    • Grades 4-5: target 29 or fewer students (30 or more trigger additional compensation)
    • Split classes: target tied to the lower grade level would apply
    • Librarians, PE teachers, and music teachers will not teach more than one class at a time

Should classes exceed the class size triggers above on the count day each trimester, the following remedy is proposed:  $600 or one (1) day of planning per trimester (up to $1,800 per year).

Both teams plan to reconvene for another session on Friday at 4:30 pm to discuss this offer. On Tuesday, the SVEA members voted to authorize a strike for Monday if they do not have an agreement by Sunday at 3 p.m.

SNOQUALMIE — The 2013-2014 school year will start as planned in Snoqualmie Valley Wednesday. But teachers will be working the first week without a contract. They may not work a second week, if a deal with the district is not reached.

strikeCheering broke out when the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association, the teachers’ union, announced the results of their vote Tuesday night: 291-8 in favor of a strike.

“It was pretty unanimous,” said John Coulon, who works at Twin Falls Middle School. “People are feeling that we’re not at the average of the surrounding school districts.”

The Snoqualmie Valley School District includes the communities of Snoqualmie, North Bend and Fall City and provides education to about 6,000 students.

The strike will not happen right away. Teachers will be in their classrooms for the first day of school Wednesday, while union representatives continue to negotiate with the district for a new contract. The new deadline for a deal is Sunday, with the teachers voting to strike Monday if they have no contract by then.

“We want to give the district another chance to hear us, collaborate with us,” said Lisa Radmer, SVEA president.

“I think we’re trying to be conscious that parents have needs, too,” added Coulon. “This gives them time to make arrangements for their kids.”

Kari Hull and her two kids want teachers to know that they’re behind them.

“To keep our good teachers, we need to do what’s right,” she said, as she held up a sign outside Mount Si High School.

Other parents agree that teachers have the right to push for more money and smaller classes.

“I think what they’re asking for is totally fair. I think they do need a pay raise, and we definitely need smaller class sizes,” said Dana Russell.

“I support them and think if they need to strike, they need to strike,” added Sara Lee.

The school district says they will start making plans for a possible strike next Monday. But they’re glad the year will start as planned Wednesday.

“We want our kids in school and I think most of the community wants that as well, and we have great hope that the bargaining teams will reach a solution,” said Carolyn Malcolm, the public information officer for the district.

Teachers are hoping for that, too.

“I feel good about going to work, I look forward to working with the kids,” said Coulon. “What I don’t feel good about is not being here Monday if we go on strike. I don’t think anyone in this room really wants to strike, but there comes a time when you have to be respected for what you do.”

Both sides will return to the negotiating table Wednesday afternoon. If a deal is not reached by 3 p.m. Sunday, teachers say there will not be school on Monday.

sno valley teacher strikeSNOQUALMIE- Kids in Snoqualmie Valley are ready to go back to school after a long summer break.

“I have a son who’s going to kindergarten and he’s head over heels excited waiting every day for the bus to come,” said Vasanthi Kadavakolu.

School will start Wednesday as planned, but for how long is another questions.  Teachers in the Snoqualmie Valley School District voted Tuesday night to go to work Wednesday without a new contract, but to go on strike next Monday if they don’t have a contract they like by Sunday.

“It’s really stressful.  We’ve been planning all year to come back to school tomorrow.  There are many families on the Ridge who don’t have alternative day care,” said Sara Lee.

The school district’s latest offer would give teachers a 4 percent raise over three years, but the teacher’s union says that’s not enough.

“We are in a high cost living area and we’re a school district that has grown quite significantly.  We are also an award winning school district.  Pretty much every one of our schools has won an award in the last five years and we’re beginning experiencing teachers leaving our district for districts that are closer to home, less commute and have better pay,” said Snoqualmie Valley Education Association President Lisa Radmer.

Teachers also want smaller class sizes.  The district’s latest proposal doesn’t guarantee that, but teachers who have bigger classes would make more money.

Parents are frustrated these negotiations are coming down to the wire, and are hopeful both sides can reach a deal soon.

There are 360 members of the SVEA and there must be a majority vote to approve the contract.