Washougal District and Teachers’ Union Head to Mediation
Saturday, December, 5, 2015
Mediation has begun for the Washougal School District and its teachers’ union after independent contract negotiations failed. The existing contract of three years expired August 31, 2015.
Both parties agreed to participate in mediation, and have agreed to honor and comply with the current agreement, as they begin mediation proceedings. This means “business as usual” is expected to continue in the school system while negotiations are ongoing. The union claims teachers have agreed to keep working “… based on the needs of district patrons.”
Concerning negotiations, the union believes the county has the funds to meet demands. A representative noted the county had a reserve fund of more than $6 million at the end of this past school year, which is more than the district’s policy of 6%.
The county acknowledges the surplus, but stated it is already ear-marked for expenditures related to bond-funded construction projects, including a new elementary school in the district. The district also points out it is a one-time surplus, which means even if the funds are currently available, there might not be a surplus in coming years to cover an long-term increases in salaries, benefits, etc.
The union believes the district has been prudent in managing public funds, but points out it have fallen short of meeting staff responsibilities. For instance, there are split classes between grade levels, large class sizes, and a need for expanded special education personnel. There was also discuss of compensation for Time, Resources, and Incentives, known as TRI, which is money used to compensate teachers for the time they spend outside of class preparing for school.