Teachers throughout the Sequim School District are in the midst of organizing a districtwide one-day unpaid work stoppage.
The date of the work stoppage, where teachers plan to be absent from their classrooms to convey to the state Legislature their shared support for fully funding education, is to be determined tentatively Wednesday, May 6.
“The point is to get Legislature to fully fund education and make it better,” said Linsay Rapelje, Sequim Education Association acting president. “This is one way to bring attention to this point.”
An intentional effort to better education is at the core of the teachers’ union decision, she explained further. To do so, the work stoppage targets state Legislature’s inaction to uphold the Supreme Court’s order following the McCleary decision in 2012.
In McCleary, the Supreme Court ruled the state isn’t meeting its “paramount duty” in regard to basic education, according to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. To remedy this, the court endorsed a plan for the state to fully fund transportation, maintenance and supplies, lower class sizes for grades K-3, fully fund educational staff’s salaries and provide state funding for enhanced levels of educational staff by 2018.
On April 27, 122 of the 180 members of the Sequim Education Association participated in a vote to pursue a work stoppage with 75 members voting yes.
“There are still a lot of details to work out,” Rapelje said.
Before settling on a date the Sequim Education Association members are waiting to find out whether neighboring districts Port Angeles or Port Townsend will collaborate on a daylong work stoppage.
Instead of just one district participating, Rapelje said, “It would be great to make a statement from the Olympic Peninsula.”
The union also is grappling with whether they’ll travel to Olympia or convene locally, she said. Either way, to reduce interference with the district, students and parents union members have been in close contact with the administration.
“Our teachers have been very cognizant to the impact (of a work stoppage) on the district and the students,” said Kelly Shea, Sequim School District superintendent.
For example, in planning the proposed work stoppage, members of the teachers’ union are being mindful in trying to schedule around testing days and sports, Shea said.
In preparation, Shea sent letters to parents to inform them of the possible work stoppage.
The Sequim School Board of Directors plans to discuss what will happen in the event of a districtwide work stoppage during its meeting Monday, May 4. Assuming a work stoppage will occur, the directors are to decide if schools would close for the day, if extracurricular activities would remain as scheduled and to identify a make-up day.
“My recommendation to the board is to close school,” Shea said. “Reason being, there is no way to find enough people to adequately oversee the students.”
Although the short-term impact of a work stoppage may result in one less day of classes for students, Rapelje assured any contact time missed likely will be made up by adding a school day at the end of year.
Once the details and the date of the work stoppage are confirmed, Shea said district officials will inform the public via a variety of methods, such as e-mail, phone calls, the district website, social media outlets and traditional news mediums.
“The work stoppage is ultimately about the students,” Rapelje said. “If the Legislature would follow through with McCleary, it would be a positive step for education.”
Of 295 Washington school districts, Sequim is the 19th to pursue a work stoppage, according to the Washington Education Association officials.
Reach Alana Linderoth at firstname.lastname@example.org.