The following statements by the Vancouver Public Schools board president and superintendent were made at a special meeting of the board of directors on Tuesday, August 28.
From School Board President Rosemary Fryer
The board continues to be engaged and regularly updated on the status of bargaining with Vancouver Education Association.
Unlike other districts that only had to address salary, VEA and VPS had to negotiate an entire contract. Both teams have bargained in good faith. The tone has been positive and collaborative.
In fact, our teams continued to bargain today with a state mediator. Both teams have worked very long hours in recent days and nights. We are grateful for their efforts.
We continue to make our team available 24/7 to expedite a quick resolution so that our students can begin the school year.
Positive progress has been made to reach a fair and competitive contract to attract and retain our valued educators.
We also must do so in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. We have the same set of commitments to all of our employees.
Unfortunately, the complex and inequitable funding system adopted by the legislature in response to the McCleary lawsuit is making the process of bargaining teacher contracts exceptionally difficult for districts throughout the state.
The failure of elected leaders in Olympia to avoid pitting unions and districts against each other has been divisive and disruptive to many communities throughout the state.
These divisions are harmful to our teachers and staff. They are harmful to our students and families. And they are harmful to our relationships with the broader community.
History has shown, time and time again, when a strike occurs, nobody wins.
From Superintendent Steve Webb
This special meeting is convened for two reasons: to conduct the regular business of the board of directors, including action items related to personnel, purchasing, and school construction related matters.
This meeting also is convened to consider a set of emergency resolutions in response to a VEA strike. These are contingency resolutions and will be implemented judiciously, depending upon the length of a potential work stoppage, the impact on educational programs, and in consideration of governing laws and requirements.
For example, the district does not plan to file a court injunction immediately. We do not plan to lock our schools, making them inaccessible to the public. We do not plan to suspend the health benefits of VEA members.
Resolution 809 pertains to the suspension of pay and health benefit premium payments. It says if a strike/work stoppage occurs and employees do not return to work by September 17, 2018, the district will suspend health premium payments for October coverage.
Friends, we don’t have a choice in this matter. State law prohibits the gift of public funds. Every VPS employee, including me, must be at work 50% of the available work days in a month, including use of approved leave, to receive their monthly premium payment.
We have confidence in the bargaining and mediation process. We’re eager to roll up our sleeves and continue to bargain in good faith with VEA to reach a fair settlement that meets our mutual interests and gets our students in school as quickly as possible.