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News >  Education

Spokane Public Schools, teachers union reach tentative contract agreement

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 28, 2019

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.  Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

More than four weeks after the beginning of the school year, Spokane Public Schools and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.

Following months of start-and-stop negotiations, the sides sprinted to the finish after a marathon session that ended at about 3 a.m. Saturday.

“We’re just happy that we were able to reach an agreement,” said Jeremy Shay, president of the Spokane Education Association, which represents all certificated and classified staff who work in the district.

“We’re excited to show our members the details of the contract,” Shay said Saturday afternoon.

That will happen at Shadle Park High School on Oct. 8, when members will gather to learn the details of the contract and presumably vote on ratification.

If members ratify, the school board must approve the contract.

“There is an agreement in principle,” Brian Coddington, the district’s director of communications and public relations, said Saturday evening.

Until Oct. 8, no details will be revealed – not even the length of the proposed contract.

The contract covers all bargaining units, according to an email sent to all SEA members Saturday afternoon.

Teachers across the state received large raises last year in the wake of the McCleary decision, including an average of 13.2% in Spokane.

“However, the climate has changed,” then-SEA president Katy Henry said this summer as negotiations began.

Those talks moved haltingly through the summer, and were delayed by the addition of a new bargaining unit for information technology workers.

Meanwhile, Henry abruptly resigned in late August to take a position with the SEA’s parent organization, the Washington Education Association.

For those and other reasons, the initial target date of Aug. 28 for reaching a tentative deal became unrealistic.

The school year began the next day, with differing opinions on how teachers and students were handling larger class sizes, smaller staffs and other effects of the budget cuts announced last spring.

During a board meeting on Sept. 11, principals reported during a board meeting that the school year was off to a strong start.

On Wednesday night, however, Shay and about 200 SEA members made a surprise appearance at a board meeting to voice their concerns that the cuts were “having a negative effect on the health and safety of our students and our members, and this, in turn, impedes their academic potential.”

At that same meeting, Shay told board members that the lack of a tentative contract “continues to add to the uncertainty, stress and frustration that we are experiencing.”

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