In front, Adams Elementary 5th Grade Teacher Michael Hertzog said the proposed teacher contract from Seattle Public Schools was unfair.
Ballard teachers protest proposed contract, demand more
"Just frustration. Just feeling not very respected."
These are the words spoken by Adams Elementary 5th Grade Teacher Michael Hertzog, in reaction to the Seattle Public Schools' proposed contract renewal for teachers.
Hertzog was one of about 20 picketers gathered at 15th and Market in Ballard this afternoon to protest the proposed contract. The event was organized by the Seattle Education Association, which represents 5,000 Seattle teachers, secretaries, classroom aides and education staff associates.
"When people rise to power in any situation, they seem to lose touch with the people on the front lines. I think this is clearly one of those cases," Hertzog continued.
While educators and the district were able to agree on a number of issues in the contract, there were a few points of contention.
According to Ballard High School teacher and union rep Noam Gundle, there were four points in the contract that could be improved upon:
1) Teacher evaluations go beyond state standard. Gundle said SPS is trying to tie teacher evaluations in with standardized tests. This is especially a sticking point for teachers when they have yet to adapt to a new test that is being implemented next year, the Common Core State Standards.
2) Teacher pay needs to be raised. Currently, the 2 percent raise that is being offered by the school does not make up for inflation. He said teachers would like to see at least a 2.5 to 3 percent raise, which would be comparable to other districts.
3) Elementary teachers are being made to work an extra half-hour after the kids leave to go home, without extra pay. Gundle said that one compromise could be to teach P.E., music or art to kids during that half-hour, like it used to be before funding was cut.
4) Caseloads for education staff associates, such as school psychologists and therapists, need to be lowered. "They don't let them serve kids effectively," said Salmon Bay Special Ed Teacher Ann Gateley. At Salmon Bay, for example, the speech language pathologist is being asked to take on another school when her caseload is already much too big. "All the kids that she sees are going to get a lower quality of service."
In addition, Salmon Bay teachers said office workers were given too big of a workload and instructional assistants' were ignored in their suggestion for more professional development.
When the contract proposal was first made on Aug. 26, union members almost unanimously rejected it.
In a message in response to the rejection, Superintendent Jose Banda wrote, "While we are disappointed that members of the Seattle Education Association did not approve our proposal, we are hopeful that we will reach an agreement that is in the best interests of students prior to the start of school. We are pleased that we have reached common ground on many contract topics with a few items remaining to be resolved. We remain committed to the negotiation process. We are confident the bargaining teams will be able to craft solutions that keep student success the priority and meet the needs of both sides."
Gundle said that getting a fair contract was not just important for one school, but for all schools and all educators.
"We're behind our colleagues a hundred percent," he said. "We're standing strong because we know getting a fair contract is the best thing for our students."
Seattle students are scheduled to start school Sept. 4. Seattle Education Association members will meet Sept. 3 to either ratify a new contract or vote to take other action, such as strike.
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