Teachers From 8 SW Washington Districts Approve Deals To End Strikes

By Molly Solomon (OPB)
Sept. 9, 2018 3:30 p.m.

UPDATE (Sunday, Sept. 10, 6:10 a.m. PT) — Teachers at Battle Ground School District remain the only ones without a deal after Evergreen and Longview teachers ratified deals with their districts Sunday.

Here's the latest on where southwest Washington school districts stand:


School starts for the Evergreen School District Monday after teachers ratified a new two-year contract Sunday. The union sats 99.5 percent of its members voted to ratify the agreement. Evergreen, southwest Washington's largest school district, had been in limbo since teachers began a strike on Aug. 28.

Teachers with the Evergreen School District picketing on Tuesday, Aug. 28. 2018.

Teachers with the Evergreen School District picketing on Tuesday, Aug. 28. 2018.

Molly Solomon / OPB

More than 97 percent of Longview teachers voted to ratify a new contract with the district Sunday, while the union representing the support staff says its members voted unanimously to approve ratify the deal. The Longview strike began on Aug. 23. School opens for the district on Tuesday.

The Washougal Association of Educators unanimously approved a new contract with the district Thursday morning, with all 199 union members present voting in favor of the agreement.

The two-year deal provides an 18 percent increase in total compensation for teachers in the first year. Over both years, teachers will see a 23.6 percent increase in total pay.

"It's a huge win for teachers, for the community," said Eric Engebretson, Washougal Education Association president.

The agreement also lowers class size caps, makes it harder to have combination classes, and adjusts case loads for special education teachers by providing more paraeducator hours.

The announcement of the ratification results Thursday morning was met with cheers and hugs, as teachers celebrated going back to school after six days on strike.

"In union there is strength, and we’ve proven that in Washougal this week," said Erin Eaton, who teaches kindergarten at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School.

Eaton said she's delighted to see teachers strike a deal, especially one that keeps pay competitive in the region.

"For the first time I think Washougal is going to be a place that people stay to teach, rather than come to get their experience and move on to another district that pays more," she said.

A statement from the district said school will start Friday.

The ratified contract offers a teacher salary range from $51,434 to $96,944 in 2018-2019. The salary range increase to $53,005 to $99,906 in 2019-2020.

Teachers rallied outside Washougal High School on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Teachers rallied outside Washougal High School on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Molly Solomon / OPB

Vancouver Public School teachers overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new contract with the district Tuesday. About 1,500 of the 1,600 Vancouver Education Association members showed up to vote, with 92.4 percent approving the deal.

Negotiating teams had reached a tentative agreement Sunday night and school reopened Wednesday.

“This is probably the most flexible professional development packet that we’ve ever seen,” said VEA executive director Rick Wilson, who called Tuesday’s vote historic. “We’re confident that we didn’t leave any money on the table.”

The three-year deal raises teacher salaries an average of 12.5 percent, bringing the range in salary up to $50,413 to $95,019 in the first year, and will adjust for inflation over the next two years.

The new contract also makes every Monday an early release day, giving teachers more time to collaborate and prep in the afternoon. All schools will be scheduled to release 40 minutes early on Mondays unless the days fall on holidays or during school breaks. The first early-release day will be Sept. 10.

Vancouver teachers pour out of Skyview High School following vote to ratify a new contract Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

Vancouver teachers pour out of Skyview High School following vote to ratify a new contract Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

Molly Solomon / OPB

According to the union, the new contract also sets aside money to hire more counselors, nurses, and speech and language pathologists.

“This contract with VEA achieves the district’s goal of providing fair and competitive compensation for our professional educators,” Superintendent Steve Webb said in a statement from the district. “In the second and third years of the contract, however, we anticipate the need for significant belt-tightening measures as our ability to generate local levy revenue is reduced and capped as a result of the legislature’s response to the McCleary court mandate."

Following Tuesday’s vote, hundreds of teachers streamed out of the auditorium, with many heading back to their classrooms to prepare for the start of school.

“I’m really, really happy and I think that our bargaining team did a great job,” said Erin Annis, who teaches French and English at Skyview High School.


“I think that our time is going to be more valued with this contract,” Annis added. “We have more time to prep, plan and meet with each other that’s paid, whereas before we hardly had any.”

The Camas Education Association unanimously approved a new teacher contract with the school district Monday to avert a strike.

The two-year deal will raise the teacher salary range to $50,727 for new teachers and $97,529 for the most experienced teachers in 2018-2019. In 2019-2020, salaries would increase to $52,868 and $100,110.

The union voted on the agreement Monday night at Camas High School.

"I've been in Camas for 29 years and this has been the most stressful start in my tenure," said Connie Pappas, a teacher-librarian at Skyridge Middle School, after a tentative deal was announced Sunday night. "I'm so relieved that I keep crying."

School in Camas started Tuesday, Sept. 4. It's one of the only southwest Washington districts to not miss any school so far due to negotiations.

"Today was a win for the students and our community," said, Camas High School principal Liza Sejkora. "Our teachers were glad to start today, and so were our families."

The Ridgefield School District approved a new three-year contract for teachers Monday to end an ongoing strike. Ridgefield was the first district in Clark County to authorize a strike.

After reaching a tentative deal Sunday, union members spent around two hours in a meeting before ratifying the agreement on Labor Day.

"The general feeling around here is relief that we are going back to our classrooms," said Alan Adams, president of the Ridgefield Education Association. "Our thoughts are also with our colleagues in other districts that are still seeking a fair contract."

Under the agreement, teachers will see a 16 percent compensation increase this school year, and a 5 percent increase each year after that. Teachers will see a total average increase of 26 percent by the 2020-2021 school year, with first-year teachers then receiving $50,774 and the most senior teachers earning $100,598.

The union approved the deal with an 87 percent vote in favor Monday. The deal also includes class size averages around 31 students in middle and high schools, as well as language to lower class sizes for kindergarten through third grade.

Teachers returned to their classrooms Tuesday morning.

The sign in front of Union Ridge Elementary School welcomes teachers back to the building after a dayslong teacher strike.

The sign in front of Union Ridge Elementary School welcomes teachers back to the building after a dayslong teacher strike.

Molly Solomon / OPB

The Hockinson Education Association voted unanimously Monday to ratify a two-year contract with the Hockinson School District and end their strike.

The deal ensures a 14.5 percent compensation increase in the first year, and 2 percent more the following year. The deal means that the newest teachers will start at $49,578 and the most experienced teachers will receive $93,445.

“We didn’t ever take anything personal when the district told us ‘no’ on different things. We just had a disagreement about how much money was actually on the table," said Megan Miles, co-president of the Hockinson Education Association. "And so, we worked on those numbers and finally came to a tentative agreement, which I’m ecstatic about.”

Classes began Tuesday, Sept. 4.

"It felt really good that our small district in Hockinson decided to come up and pay their teacher's their worth," Miles said. "It just shows that Hockinson values their teachers."

The Battle Ground school district released an updated teacher contract to the public Monday.

After initially offering teachers a compensation increase of 6.5 percent, district officials said they'd revised their offer for the 2018-2019 school year to a 10 percent average increase. In the two years after that, the increases would raise to 14.8 percent and 19.3 percent over the current contract.

If teachers were to approve that offer, it would raise a first-year teacher's salary to $49,518 and a senior teacher's salary to $95,102 in the 2020-2021 school year.

The district said that the Battle Ground Education Association is asking for a one-year contract with an average total compensation increase of 24.2 percent.

"Like the other districts that have settled around us, we believe we can give our teachers a fair and sustainable increase that utilizes all of the McCleary money in multiple years," said Battle Ground Superintendent Mark Ross.

In a statement Sunday, the teacher's union stressed that the district needs to be competitive with its neighbors.

"As it stands, many teachers feel torn between serving the community that they love and serving in another district where they could provide much more for their own families," the BGEA statement read.

Conrad Wilson contributed to this story.