September 16, 2008
Evergreen, Teachers Agree on Two-Year Pact
By HOWARD BUCK
Evergreen Public Schools has reached tentative agreement on a two- year contract for more than 1,600 teachers, the union said Monday.
A general membership meeting is scheduled tonight. But teachers' ratification is more likely to come in voting at schools over the next several days.
Dave Burroughs, president of the Evergreen Education Association, said he expects the Evergreen school board to seal the deal when it next meets Sept. 23.
The union's governing board unanimously endorsed the pact, save for one member who abstained, Burroughs said.
The proposal calls for a 1.1 percent pay increase over the next two years, beyond a state-approved and state-funded cost-of-living raise that pays Evergreen teachers 5.1 percent more in 2008-09.
More than 60 "substantive" changes in union-district relations are tucked into the contract, Burroughs said.
Class size would be reduced for most teachers, under a complex grid adopted for different grade levels, he said. There would be more special education staffing flexibility. And all teachers would have greater opportunity for in-district job transfers before openings are publicly posted, he said.
The agreement caps nine months of talks, and comes two weeks into the school year and after a three-year contract expired Aug. 31.
"It's been a long, arduous process," said Burroughs, a media specialist at Covington Middle School on assignment for the union.
Negotiations lacked the acrimony of this month's teachers strike in Bellevue - now settled - and the frustration in Camas, where that district and classified, nonteaching workers have called for outside mediation.
"Nothing like the Bellevue experience - and nothing like the (Bellevue) payoff," Burroughs said. "We had requested considerably more," he said. But tight district finances and a struggling economy trimmed expectations, he said.
The proposed deal recognizes potential pitfalls and political changes at state and federal levels by 2010, Burroughs said. Also that year, Evergreen is slated to ask voters to approve a replacement local school levy.
"One (year) wasn't enough and three was too much. Two sounded right," Burroughs said.
Jerry Piland, Evergreen's executive personnel director, said the deal was appropriate.
"I think we reached a fair and reasonable settlement," Piland said. "It did take quite a while. We did deal with a significant number of items."
The pending agreement comes after last week's ratification of a five-year contract for about 1,060 Evergreen classified workers.
Extending through August 2013, that contract will phase in pay hikes to bring Evergreen salaries even with those in Vancouver Public Schools across all union classifications, the district said. To control costs, it also splits employees into two insurance pools.
In Camas, classified union leaders and the school district are awaiting assignment of a mediator by a state labor relations board. No progress was made during a brief bargaining session Thursday, the district said.
Previously: Contract talks between Evergreen Public Schools and more than 1,600 teachers carried past expiration of the previous contract Aug. 31.
What's new: The district and teachers union have reached a tentative deal that includes a 1.1 percent salary increase over two years.
What's next: Teachers are likely to vote on ratification in the next several days, with final school board approval expected Sept. 23.
Howard Buck covers schools and education. He can be reached at 360-735-4515 or
Originally published by HOWARD BUCK Columbian staff writer.
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