Board OKs teacher contract

Remarking that a three-year contract is a “little out of the norm,” by superintendent of the Mercer Island School District, Gary Plano, the MISD Board of Directors, voted unanimously to approve the new contract with the Mercer Island Education Association at Thursday night’s regularly scheduled meeting. The new contract is valid until Aug. 31, 2014.

The district’s Web site states, “The approved agreement covers three school years and provides a period of stability as the district and association work to solve the many challenges presented as a result of the national economic situation.

“The new contract provides for shifting early release day from Monday to Wednesday, beginning in the 2012-13 school year. This will result in increased teacher/student contact time at the high school level.

“The association and district also worked together to provide a new evaluation tool for our classified staff. This gives improved feedback to our employees and sets the stage for more effective services to students.

“The district and association also agreed to maintain a learning improvement day to provide training to our teachers by providing time to work on educational programs that enhance student learning and advance our vision and mission within the district.

As far as compensation is concerned, staff salaries are to be at one-tenth of one percent of the maximum funded level allowed under applicable law and regulation or stipulated otherwise in a modified agreement. Both parties acknowledge the district’s need to comply with state compensation limitations.

The Reporter previously reported that the contract passed MIEA members with a 93 percent majority. However, Ellis Reyes, a teacher at West Mercer, said that while that is technically true, it is not a mathematically accurate reflection of the vote.

Reyes said only 31 percent of the union membership voted on the contract — which means that 28.83 percent of the overall membership voted to approve the contract.

Reyes said so few teachers voted because the contract ratification meeting was scheduled for 4:15 p.m. on the day before school began, which guaranteed a low turnout.

Ellis said West Mercer had an open house and supply drop-off event scheduled for the primary grades at 4 p.m., which prevented any of those teachers from attending a 4:15 meeting. Other schools may have had conflicting events as well.

Ellis also said he didn’t know of any survey that was sent to teachers asking why they may have voted against the contract.

“For my part, I voted against the contract not because of its provisions, but because of the process in which it was presented to the union’s membership,” Ellis said. “I and other union members requested to see the draft of the contract before the meeting so that we would be prepared to ask questions. All of us were denied.”

He said MIEA leadership’s rationale was that they didn’t want any misinterpretations or misunderstandings. He said with no time to digest the contract, casting an educated vote was impossible.

MIEA president, Tani Lindquist, said the meeting was scheduled before negotiations were complete.

“At that time it looked like it was going take longer to meet common ground,” Lindquist said. “We were thinking if we couldn’t settle, we’d pick the latest possible date, which was the day before school started. We wanted the bargaining teams to have the most time to negotiate. I think it’s a very fair settlement, especially with these crazy economic times. We found common ground with the resources that are available.”


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