Sequim teachers critical of pay increase cap proposal

The idea of a 1.5 percent cap on raises isn’t sitting well with a number of Sequim School District teachers.

Staffers flocked to the Sequim School Board’s Nov. 15 online meeting, detailing the adjustments they’ve made since the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced all classes into a remote model, and since have significantly changed their day-to-day instruction.

SaraLynn Pozernick, vice president for the Sequim Education Association — the local teachers’ union — said the reported raise cap is unfair for educators who have struggled to meet the changes in their profession.

“We had to completely reinvent what we do on the fly,” she said. “I taught virtually for 12 months (and I) did it basically overnight.

“We are prepared to return to the next board meeting if needed.”

Joe Van De Weghe, a Sequim High School teacher speaking on behalf of the SEA, said he saw the impact of COVID both as a teacher and as a parent of elementary school-aged students.

“We all clocked countless hours outside of our contracted time,” he said, before urging the board to reach a fair agreement with the teachers’ union.

“We have (to know) what we do is respected,” added SHS social studies teacher Michael Lippert.

Rebecca Bullard said she was working as a part-time (0.6 full-time equivalent) instructor working jobs on the side before the pandemic hit. After that, she said, the extra workload forced her to quit her other jobs, as she and other staff began to use non-work hours to help those falling behind.

“The weight of these things have been put on our shoulders,” she said. “Many districts have financially recognized (their staff). I’m hopeful our district will see our hard work, too.”

Following negotiations in closed executive sessions, school board directors approve contracts for bargaining groups. On Monday night, director Eric Pickens — himself a teacher and board member with Washington Education Association, the state teachers’ union — said Monday, “Nothing is as hard as teaching, mentally and physically; that was before COVID, so it just got worse.

“We need to make sure we take care of our teachers.”

The board next meets on Dec. 6.

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