Retired teacher Nancy McCaleb speaks in support of striking paraeducators in the Port Angeles School District as Port Angeles Paraeducators Association President Rebecca Winters listens during a rally on Thursday at Shane Park. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Retired teacher Nancy McCaleb speaks in support of striking paraeducators in the Port Angeles School District as Port Angeles Paraeducators Association President Rebecca Winters listens during a rally on Thursday at Shane Park. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

About 130 rally in support of paras

District officials say funding is statewide problem

PORT ANGELES — Members of the Port Angeles Paraeducator Association have been prepared every day this week to meet and vote on a tentative contract agreement between their union and the school district.

They will have to wait at least one more day.

The PAPEA and the Port Angeles School District failed to find common ground at the bargaining table again Thursday, pushing school closures to a fifth straight day.

The 130-member PAPEA is demanding a salary increase of 3.7 percent — the adjustment for inflation set by the Legislature for the 2023-2024 school year based on the implicit price deflator (IPD).

PAPEA President Rebecca Winters said her bargaining team presented a proposal to district officials at 12:30 p.m. Thursday and was optimistic it would be accepted. School district officials presented a separate offer about 5:30 p.m.

The district has said funding paraeducators at the level they are demanding would be unsustainable as it looks ahead to falling enrollment and a continuation of insufficient state support. It has offered paraeducators $225,000 in salary and benefit increases for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years.

In an email to parents Thursday notifying them of the school closures, the district called the impasse a “Washington State school funding issue” and directed blame at the Legislature for failing to fully fund education.

About 130 people showed up at a rally in Shane Park on Thursday to support the paraeducators.

Among the speakers were former teacher Nancy McCabe and former Port Angeles School Board member and Washington State Native American Education Advisory Committee Cindy Kelly, who read from the district’s strategic plan.

Former Port Angeles School Board Member Cindy Kelly holds up a copy of the school district’s strategic plan during a rally in support of striking paraeducators on Thursday at Shane Park in Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Former Port Angeles School Board Member Cindy Kelly holds up a copy of the school district’s strategic plan during a rally in support of striking paraeducators on Thursday at Shane Park in Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

“Every staff member is valued for their unique strengths each brings to our work each day,” said Kelly, who served on the board from 2001 to 2021 and is now a volunteer at Dry Creek Elementary School. “This policy also insures that barriers to fairness are identified and removed.’”

Kelly looked up from her text and told the crowd, “You are worth it.”

State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, who is competing against Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz in this fall’s race for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Derek Kilmer, said her mother worked as a paraeducator for 22 years in South Kitsap, so she understood the role the play in education.

“The work that you do is essential to all kids in Washington,” Randall said. “You deserve this COLA — it is the bare minimum for what you do.”

Union support at the rally came from April Sims, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Teamsters; the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 155; the Washington Federation of State Employees; and the Washington Education Association Olympic and Chinook councils.

The PAPEA walked out on Monday. The 222 members of the Port Angeles Education Association, which represents teachers and counselors, are honoring the picket line.

On Tuesday, the district filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Clallam County Superior Court to force members of the PAPEA back to work; Judge Simon Barnhart scheduled a motion hearing for 1:30 p.m. April 26.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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