Snoqualmie Valley teachers to start school year, may strike next week

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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.

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1 Comment

  • Jack Webber

    The main issue in the teacher's contract negotiation deadlock is students. Teachers want meaningful, enforceable caps on class sizes at the elementary level, not just token latte money for each additional student over some artificial cap number. Washington ranks 46th out of 50 states in class size already and this offer just makes it worse. Seriously addressing unlimited class sizes at the elementary is a top priority for teachers. It is not about funds, it is about priorities. Funds were added from the state this year, but unlimited class size is apparently not a priority of the district's newly hired negotiator. Neither apparently is teacher compensation.

    Every district is short of funds, but we are the only district in the state that has not settled! Riverview SD, which is Carnation, settled for 4% for the first year, 2% the second and 2% the third. The Snoqualmie Valley district's negotiator only finally this month offered us 0.5%! After the teacher's negotiators rejected what many considered an insulting offer, the district's negotiation team currently "generous" offer has gone up to 1%! for the first year. It is not about a shortage of funds, it is about priorities. Renton settled for 2.38%, Shoreline 2.45%, Vashon 3%, Tukwila 2% for the first year of their contract. Any wonder why the teachers are angry? 3 classroom teachers are on the teacher negotiation team, not a single school board member is on the district's team. Unfortunately, after months and months, perhaps a strike is the only way to send a message.

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