Mercer Island Education Association (MIEA) members and supporters pack the School Board meeting on Aug. 17, after holding a rally outside City Hall. Photo courtesy of MIEA

Mercer Island educators, school board reach tentative agreement following protests

Members and supporters of the Mercer Island Education Association held several rallies before the Aug. 17 School Board meeting to send a message: teachers will need a new contract, with competitive salaries and smaller class sizes, to maintain the excellence expected in Island schools.

And early on Aug. 19, negotiators for MIEA and the school district — which were in contract negotiations — reached a tentative agreement on a new two-year collective bargaining agreement for teachers and most classified school employees.

The new agreement addresses major priorities, including professional, competitive compensation and smaller class sizes. Both sides said they were pleased with the progress they made over the last week.

“The bargaining teams worked really hard to get a contract that truly meets the needs of our students,” said Mike Radow, a teacher and president of MIEA, in a joint statement from MIEA and the school district. “While our members must still vote on the new contract, the agreement is proof that collaboration through collective bargaining works. Community support for Mercer Island students and schools is as strong as ever.”

MIEA members will meet Aug. 28 for a contract ratification vote. The School Board will vote on the contact at a meeting to be scheduled. School starts Aug. 30.

“Thanks to the collaborative process between the district and MIEA bargaining teams, these negotiations have resulted in a contract that serves our teachers, support staff, families, students and community well. I look forward to sharing it with the School Board for its consideration,” said Mercer Island School District Superintendent Donna Colosky.

In June, MIEA members said they needed a new, fair contract by the end of August, voting with a unanimous voice for a “no contract, no work” stance.

Radow said in June that the district “has the resources but they’ve shifted financial priorities away from our students and classrooms and more toward administration.”

MIEA stated that it is becoming difficult to attract and keep caring, qualified and committed teachers and support staff.

It wants to encourage the district to “offer our teachers salaries that are equal or greater than to that of nearby districts including Bellevue and Issaquah while lowering class size.”

“We need to offer our teachers an environment and salaries that make Mercer Island a desirable place to work,” according to a post on the MIEA Facebook page. “If other districts offer better compensation and a shorter commute times, it makes it an easy decision for teachers to opt to work elsewhere.”

Specifically, MIEA is seeking: professional, competitive pay for all certificated and classified educators, comparable with competing districts; smaller class sizes and additional support so students can get personal, one-on-one attention and help; and more time spent teaching and supporting students and less time in meetings and other non-student work.

According to the MIEA Facebook page, the district is spending less on the classroom as a percent of total spending than it did five years ago, and the spending has shifted to administration.

“In the past five years, spending on building administration has increased 34 percent. Spending on central administration has grown 60 percent,” according to the post. “Spending on teachers and other educators has increased 16 percent. Other spending (transportation, food services, utilities, grounds and maintenance and info services) has increased 5.5 percent.”

The MIEA represents nearly 450 teachers and education support professionals in the district.

MIEA members gather to support increased pay for teachers. Photo courtesy of MIEA

MIEA members say they will not work without a new contract by the end of August. Photo courtesy of MIEA

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