Sequim teachers pause strike deadline

Sequim teachers are holding off on a strike against Sequim School District as a possible agreement has been reached regarding teacher contracts.

Sequim Education Association (SEA) president Diana Piersoll said on Sept. 26, with the support of the Washington Education Association (WEA) a tentative agreement was reached with Sequim School District at about 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 25.

“We will present this agreement to our members this Thursday, Sept. 28, at a closed general membership meeting,” Piersoll said in an email.

“At that time they will vote and approve or reject the proposal.”

Sequim schools superintendent Gary Neal confirmed the tentative agreement was reached.

Neal said if the union ratifies the contract on Thursday it will no longer meet with the district but if the union does not ratify the contract mediation will continue.

He also said there was some contract language in the collective bargaining agreement that was “outdated and needed to be brought up to speed.”

SEA members have been in mediation with the district regarding teacher bargaining agreements since April and have been making appearances in large numbers — wearing red clothing and holding signs — at school board meetings over the last month to show their solidarity for fair teacher pay.

On Sept. 13, members of the SEA voted in favor of authorizing its elected officers to call for a strike on Sept. 27 or a later date if an agreement was not met with the district before then.

Jon Eekhoff, a Sequim High School teacher and SEA member said at a previous SEA meeting that some of the issues members are advocating for with the district include class sizes, fair pay and more representation on instructional committees.

Many other teachers have voiced Eekhoff’s sentiments over the last several weeks, such as Sequim Middle School History teacher Leif Hendricksen, with three years experience in the district and a Sequim High graduate.

“We want to get paid for the work that we do,” Hendricksen said.

“We are asked to develop extra curriculum. We are asked to stay late and do extra things and they’re not paying us for it, and we want to be paid for it.”

Sequim teachers have a significantly lower amount of Time, Responsibility and Incentive (TRI) days — about 15.7 — than other surrounding districts, such as Port Angeles, which has 31 TRI days and Port Townsend, which has 27.5 TRI days; which amounts to thousands of dollars less in compensation each year.

Help with Greywolf over-crowing

Neal said the overcrowding of students at Greywolf Elementary School in Carlsborg also was tied into contract negotiations with the teachers’ union.

He noted the teachers’ union was very cooperative in helping the district come up with creative ways to address the overcrowding problem that is still being worked through.

The Sequim School District had been looking at the possibility of moving students from Greywolf Elementary to Helen Haller Elementary if staff were unable to find a solution for overcrowded classes.

Greywolf Elementary has grown in student population by 100 students in the past two years, Neal said, calling the overcrowding at a “critical level.”

In a press release sent Aug. 31, the second day of school for most Sequim students, Neal said district administrators are now looking to partners in the community for potential solutions.

Sequim School District teachers and supporters lobby outside the Sequim High School auditorium and along North Sequim Avenue before a school board meeting on Sept. 18. Teachers will hold off on a proposed strike after the teachers’ union came to a tentative agreement with the district regarding teacher contracts on Sept. 25. Sequim Gazette photo by Erin Hawkins Sequim teachers and supporters of fair teacher pay will hold off on a strike against Sequim School District as the Sequim Education Association came to a tentative agreement with the district regarding teacher contracts on Sept. 25. The Association will present the agreement to members on Thursday, Sept. 28, where they will vote and approve or reject the proposal. Sequim Gazette photo by Erin Hawkins

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