Story Summary

South Kitsap School District to cut over 60 teaching jobs

The South Kitsap School District planned to eliminate 68 jobs – 61 of them teaching positions — for the upcoming school year. The drastic cuts were passed by the South Kitsap School Board in an effort to close a $3 million funding gap.

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kitsap school 09-11-13PORT ORCHARD — Teachers fought hard to reduce class sizes in the South Kitsap School District, but that has caused a big scheduling headache for students and administrators the first week of school.

The contract agreement between teachers and the district means lowering class sizes at the middle and high schools by two students this semester and an additional three next semester.

“Unfortunately what that’s meant is some of our 7th and 8th graders — in at least one of our junior highs — has seen a second and maybe third schedule revision because we’ve tried to lower their class sizes,” superintendent Michelle Reid said.

Administrators have been shuffling kids around to balance out the numbers and in some cases, brought in substitutes to handle the overflow.

“There are concerns from teachers,” John Richardson, president of the South Kitsap Education Association, said.  “We are coming up on the seventh day of school tomorrow and it is important to get those classes scheduled because so much of what you do in the beginning of the year sets up the learning for the rest of the year.”

The district laid off 57 teachers earlier this summer but brought back 54 of them.  Some certificated employees who had been working in non-teaching roles are going back into the classroom.

In spite of the hiccups, Reid is confident things will be straightened out by next week.

“I think we’re getting really close to being there and parents can know we’re doing the best we can for the kids in the community,” she said.

Next year, classes at the elementary level will be reduced by one student.

southkitsapPORT ORCHARD, Wash. — Despite weeks of grandstanding and proclamations from both sides, South Kitsap Education Association’s members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the South Kitsap School District, sending kids back into the classroom on Wednesday.

Ninety-six percent of the association’s 407 teachers and workers voted to ratify the contract Tuesday morning at South Kitsap High School.

Just last week, SKEA voted to go on strike largely regarding issues of class size, which teachers said was approaching 40 students per class.

According Judy Arbogast of the Washington Education Association, the new contract guarantees class sizes will be reduced by three students per secondary academic class throughout the school year. Also, the amount of split level classes where students from two different grades are placed in one classroom will be reduced during the next three years. Elementary school class sizes will be lowered by one student in the 2014-2015 school year.

SKEA President John Richardson said members of the education association were excited to see a commitment to lowering class sizes in an effort to improve education. Now, he said, teachers and students can focus on the year ahead.

“We are pleased to be getting back into our classrooms and excited to see our students tomorrow,” Richardson said.

PORT ORCHARD — The South Kitsap School District and the teachers’ union announced Friday night they had reached a tentative contract agreement that will likely avert a strike and allow classes to start next week as scheduled.

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Earlier this week, South Kitsap teachers sought public support for their position by holding up signs with the number of students who would be in their classes.

The agreement must still be approved by the rank-and-file teachers, but the head of their union said in a news release Friday night that the proposal “makes real progress toward smaller class sizes” — the main issue in the dispute.

Teachers said they were facing class sizes of 35 to 37 students this fall, and some as many as 40 students, after the district laid off 57  teachers earlier this year.

Teachers will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday at South Kitsap High School to hear from their negotiating team about the tentative agreement and to vote whether to accept the contract proposal.

“We are happy to finally have a tentative agreement that makes real progress toward smaller class sizes,” said John Richardson, president of the South Kitsap Education Association, which represents the teachers in the district.  “We thank the community for their support and look forward to our meeting on Tuesday.”

On Monday, teachers had authorized their union to call a strike if an agreement on smaller class sizes was not reached by Sept. 1.  But the tentative agreement ends the threat of an immediate strike, at least until teachers vote on the contract proposal Tuesday. School is set to start Wednesday.

“We are very pleased that we were able to reach a tentative agreement with our dedicated and skilled staff in the South Kitsap Education Association,” School Board President Keith Garton said. “I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the district’s bargaining team.”

Garton also added that the School Board has directed Superintendent Michelle Reid “to work with district stakeholders to continue the focus on rebuilding the district’s reserves and fiscal stability. The board also expects Dr. Reid to work on the implementation of the recommendations from the recent independent fiscal review.”

“We want to thank everyone in the community for your dedication to our school system and your patience as we worked on reaching a tentative agreement. I know both the district and SKEA are united in providing the best education possible for South Kitsap students,” Garton said.

PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap teachers are promising to go on strike over large class sizes.

skitsapIn response, the School Board on Wednesday night gave the superintendent the power to seek a court injunction to force teachers back to work if they do strike next week. The board also gave Superintendent Michelle Reid the authorization to hire temporary and substitute teachers.

Earlier in the day, dozens of South Kitsap teachers marched through the streets holding up signs. Each teacher had a number showing how many students they had in their class this year. Many teachers had signs ranging from 33 to 37.

In May, citing a budget shortfall, the district cut 57 teaching positions saving nearly $5 million.

“Not filling the positions this year doesn’t save money, it means we are not spending further into our savings account,” Reid said.

The South Kitsap Education Association, the teachers’ union, said the financial picture is not as bleak as the district portrays it.

“SKEA firmly believes the district has enough money,” said Judy Arbogast.

Now, one week from the first day of classes, the School Board was taking no chances.  They passed a set of resolutions allowing the district to suspend pay, hire substitute teachers or even seek a court injunction if there is a strike.

“It’s not a really good thing to do that right now,” said parent Frank DeGregory.

The union says they are disappointed but not surprised by the move.

With seven classes across the district expected to have 40 or more kids this year, teachers are standing their ground. And many parents are behind them every step of the way.

“If they have any hopes of their kids having a good education, they need to support the teachers on this one,” said DeGregory.

The district is expected to make an offer at the bargaining table on Thursday. The superintendent says she is confident they will be able to avoid a strike.

The union wants the district to restore 30 jobs out of the 57 positions cut in May. The superintendent says they have rehired about four more teachers this past week and she is hoping to restore more positions.

If they cannot come to an agreement, the strike begins Sept. 4 which is the first day of school.

PORT ORCHARD — The South Kitsap School Board on Wednesday night authorized Superintendent Michelle Reid to seek a court injunction to force teachers back to work if they strike over class sizes next week. The board also authorized her to hire temporary and substitute teachers in the event of a strike.

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South Kitsap teachers protest with signs bearing numbers of projected class sizes.

Ear;lier, Wednesday, dozens of teachers marched along the street near South Kitsap High School in protest. Each teacher held up a sign with a number revealing their class size in hope of getting the community fired up.

Take, for example, South Kitsap High School: This year the average class is projected to have 35 students. At least four classes are even expected to have 40 or more kids.

The teacher’s union wants the district to restore at least 30 teaching jobs from the 57 positions that were cut in May.

“We are convinced we will settle before school starts; we are confident we can do that,” said Superintendent Michelle Reid.

“This class size issue didn’t happen overnight, it’s been building and parents realize their kids only get one chance at each grade level and we have high school kids that have been in big classes since 2nd grade,” said South Kitsap Education Association spokeswoman Judy Arbogast.

The district and the teachers’ union are at major odds over the budget. If there is no agreement by Saturday, teachers will go on strike on the first day of school — something that has never happened in South Kitsap in recent history.

SEATTLE — Six-year-old Roman Green has had a blast this summer, traveling to Europe with his family and spending plenty of time on his scooter at the Delridge skate park.  Next week, he is supposed to start first grade at West Seattle’s K-5 STEM School.

seattle teachers“He is looking forward to it so much that he wore his school uniform yesterday.  I tried to talk him out of it but he said he wanted to wear it,” his mom, Helen Green, said Tuesday.

Roman and the rest of Seattle Public School students may have to wait a little longer to go back to class. Seattle teachers voted Monday night to reject the district’s contract offer. Negotiations are continuing, but the current deal ends Saturday night.  The main sticking points are teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and an extra half-hour of work a day for elementary teachers that they say results in a pay cut.

The Seattle Public Schools District sent an email out to parents that said, “Seattle Public Schools working to reach agreement with SEA, but possible school may not start on Sept. 4.”

The Seattle teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, plans to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide an update on contract negotiations.

In the South Kitsap School District, meanwhile, excessive class size is the issue. Teachers there voted Monday night to approve a strike if no agreement is reached with the district by Sept. 1.

“It’s extremely difficult to individualize when students are crammed into classes.  Right now the high school has averages of 33-35 per class,” said Judy Arbogast with the South Kitsap Education Association.

The South Kitsap School District began calling parents telling them to make contingency plans in case of a possible teachers strike.

In Mukilteo, a tentative contract agreement has been reached.  Teachers are expected to vote on it Wednesday afternoon.

seattle teachersSEATTLE– Tuesday morning about two dozen teachers gathered to show their solidarity after voting no to a proposed contract for the upcoming school year.

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.

PORT ORCHARD — 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 say, 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 say they say they have never considered a strike before but if class sizes don’t get smaller a strike could happen.

New School District Superintendent Michelle Reid says 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 yet 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.

In the video report, South Kitsap teacher Josh Morton discusses the teachers’ vote.

Monday night, Reid issued a statement 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.”

PORT ORCHARD –Hundreds of South Kitsap teachers are concerned about large class sizes after the district cut 10 percent of the teaching force in May. On Wednesday,  teachers packed a public meeting hoping to convince the district to restore most of those jobs.

kitsapThis year, the average class size at South Kitsap High School is projected to be around 35. There are even four classes at this high school expected to have 40 or more students.
The teacher’s union says that’s unacceptable and if the district doesn’t restore the teaching positions soon there could be talks of a strike.

“Getting extra help after school, it was really hard getting that one-on-one time,” said South Kitsap High senior class president Noel Damian.

Many teachers and parents addressing the school board on Wednesday were frustrated over the same thing.

“Get your act together because I am getting ready to pull my kids out of here,” said one parent.

More than 300 people, mostly teachers, packed the school board meeting, demanding for most if not all of the 57 teaching jobs to be restored.

“How can we serve the children as a whole child with 57 fewer teachers?” South Kitsap Education Association spokeswoman Judy Arbogast asked.

Michelle Reid, the new superintendent, said that for years the district has been operating on the reserve budget, which is now dangerously low.

“This is why we are being so conservative with our staffing,” said Reid.

The state recently doled out more than $4 million in extra funding to the district, but the superintendent said that money had strings attached with specific instructions.

“State money went to special education, transportation, lab funding,” said Reid.

According to Reid, it leaves very little for discretionary funds

“Your budget is based on a projection and is a guess at best,” said one teacher.

SKEA says they’ve been crunching the numbers as well and it believes the current budget can buy more teachers.

The union is in the midst of contract talks they say they have never considered a strike before but if class sizes don’t get smaller a strike could happen.

“We are frustrated because we don’t see any progress,” said Arbogast.

In all, seven classes in the district could start this year with 40 or more students.

Damian says he is used to bumping elbows and shoulders with his classmates. Something parents are furious about.

“Cutting isn’t going to save you guys, you guys are at a death’s spiral and if you can make it to 2014 you will be lucky,” said one parent.

The superintendent says there is about $1 million in discretionary funds that could be used to restore up to 15 teaching jobs.

She is not committing to any decision yet. Reid will wait until Sept. 4, the first day of school, for the final enrollment numbers. If there are classes with 40 or more students, she promised to restore jobs. However, it is unclear exactly how many students will be in classes right now.

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