No one said it would be easy, but it has been a most frustrating time

As we head into the third weekend of the school year, as SKEA president, I can say that it has been a most difficult time. We fought hard to keep class sizes where they were last year or to lower them and while we were able to achieve this at the bargaining table, putting it into practice has been more than a challenge.

When I visit our schools, our members are sharing their frustrations and illustrating with story after story about changing schedules, changing positions and, mostly, a feeling of disarray and uncertainty. This impacts our students and when our students are negatively impacted, our teachers and other educators are distressed.

I am working night and day to try help mitigate the upheaval. Some of this was expected but nowhere near what I am hearing. I want to thank our members for their patience with the little bumps and the big bumps. And I want to thank our students for hanging in there as things are continuously changing around them. Parents and other guardians, if your students seem frustrated or stressed by all of this, know that we share their frustration. We are here to teach them and to get on with what needs doing.

A friend once told me that we have to keep our perspective and that there are all kinds of lumps — lumps in our oatmeal, lumps in our throat and lumps in our prostrate. These three weeks definitely reach the lump in my throat level. I am sad and exasperated we are still waiting for the dust to settle. But I also know that together we will make it through feeling so discombobulated. We will bond with our students and be stronger for muddling through together.

My focus is to make sure we have a strong voice in Olympia backing smaller class sizes in the future. I am asking members to volunteer some time Sept. 28 to doorbell for a candidate who I believe is a strong advocate for our students. If you would like to join us in knocking on doors and talking with our community members about why we support Nathan Schlicher for state senate or if you want to know more about why our local WEA Political Action Committee is supporting him, feel free to contact me through the blog or via my email, Keep in touch.

John Richardson

Lots of work to do

We have just a short few weeks before the 2013-2014 school year begins. Since the end of last school year, we’ve spent seven days bargaining. Because the Washington State Legislature special session went so long into the summer, the district told us they were not able to bargain on any issues involving money.

Once the session finally ended and the legislature settled on a budget, we began bargaining again at the end of July. South Kitsap School District is receiving $4.77 million more this coming year.

We have reached tentative agreements on some smaller issues, but have not yet made as much progress as we hoped on class size and elimination of split grades in our elementary schools.

We believe the District’s last proposal, which would increase class sizes in our secondary grades by three students, will harm our students and prevent us from helping them with academic achievement. The District told us, “We feel the current elementary class sizes are very manageable.”

We heartily disagree.

Currently, we are still working on several smaller issues where we believe we are in agreement to make sure our final contract language is solid. Issues still on the table include class size, professional development, health care, SLP and psychology caseloasd, special education preschool class size, high school climate and a host of other issues.

At this time, our teams are scheduled to negotiate Aug. 14, 15, 16 and Aug. 21, 22, 23. We are ready and willing to add as many more days as needed to come to a FAIR agreement.