by Lin McNulty
What started out as a rumor-filled morning and afternoon of local teachers getting ready to strike, has turned out with smiles all around as the Orcas Island School Board and local teachers union came to agreement on a new two-year contract.
Teachers, clad in red shirts (RED for ED.), met in a closed-door meeting at Eastsound Fire Station at 4:30 p.m. to deliberate and discuss the proposed contract presented from the School Board. Shortly after 5 p.m., they emerged amidst happy grins, proclaiming, “we got a contract.”
Earlier in the day, nearly 35 teachers had been on a pseudo-picket line at the school, as well as walking through the village, carrying signs that stated “Fair Contract Now,” and “Quality Respect, Fair Pay.” Many who saw them on their march assumed that meant a strike was a-brewing.
The new contract, says Head Bargaining Chair Mandy Randolph, “is all about student learning.” Randolph also teaches Farm to Classroom, and OASIS classes.
Superintendent Barbara Kline said on Tuesday evening after the vote, “I am both pleased and surprised that we have completed the agreement so quickly. Sometimes it has taken a lot longer.”
This contract was strictly between the teachers and the school district. Previous issues with the State not providing an expected 2.7 percent increase from two years ago, is a separate issue, with the State now putting back 1.9 percent of that pay raise, non-retroactively.
The new contract, which will take effect on all needed signatures being affixed, provides for:
- A modest increase in salaries
- Ground-breaking collaboration on how to evaluate teachers in order to improve student growth
- Improvements to stabilize and improve student growth
- Assignment of a mentor-teacher for all new teachers to the district
- A limit on the number of times teachers can be transferred to new positions, at the request of the district and/or the request of the teacher.
Anne Ford McGrath, Union President, and 1st and 2nd grade teacher, echoed Randolph’s statement that the new agreement is all about improving the learning experience.
Despite rumors and appearance, says Randolph, “a strike was not on the table.”
Tony Ghazel, School Board Member, stated, “Our teachers have accepted a new two-year collective bargaining agreement. We are thrilled for our children and our community, and proud of our teachers.”