District, PAPEA continue to bargain

Strike authorized without deal by Monday

PORT ANGELES — Bargaining teams for the Port Angeles School District and the Port Angeles Paraeducators Association remained at odds in contract talks after their fifth mediated session this week.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, the two sides will resume bargaining today and again Sunday as they face the possibility of a PAPEA strike on Monday — the first day back to classes after spring break.

The Port Angeles School District Board of Directors will hold a special meeting today at 11 a.m. at Lincoln Center, 905 W. Ninth St., to discuss preparations should paraeducators strike on Monday.

The PAPEA is seeking annual salary step increases, recognition for hard-to-fill special education positions, for training, certifications and academic degrees; and for earlier and higher rates of pay for longevity.

The primary roadblock to an agreement has been the paraeducators’ request for a 3.7 percent state-authorized wage adjustment, an increase they have said will cost the district $128,000.

The school district has argued it does not have the resources to meet the paraeducators’ demands.

PAPEA president Rebecca Winters said the union remains somewhat flexible on everything except the inflationary wage adjustment.

“What we are fighting for is just the cost of living,” Winters said. “We would love to be recognized like all the other paraeducators around the Olympic Peninsula [that received wage adjustments].”

The PAPEA has said hourly pay ranging from $21.68 to $28.33 has forced many of its members, almost all of whom work part time, to work two jobs in order to get by and has made hiring and retaining paraeducators difficult.

“The district works on bargaining with all of our bargaining groups, paras included, in a financially sustainable manner,” Superintended Marty Brewer said. “We have to look at our resources from year to year, assess those resources and determine what it is that we have or don’t have to bargain with.

“We want to treat all of our employee groups fairly with a wage that is comparable to our region, and we want to do that in a financially sustainable manner that won’t continue to reduce important programs in our district.”

The 130 PAPEA members have been working without a contract since Aug. 31. They voted in February to authorize a strike.

The Port Angeles Education Association, which represents teachers, voted March 27 to honor the PAPEA picket line.

Like other school districts across the state, Port Angeles has had to make hard and unpopular decisions due to revenue shortfalls. Last year it cut $5 million — or about 10 percent — from its $50 million budget to close a funding gap. It accomplished that by increasing class sizes, not filling some positions left open by retirement and eliminating some programs.

A decline of 41 full-time-equivalent students from last year has meant $600,000 in lost revenue. State underfunding of education, specifically special education, has hit the district particularly hard. State funding has also not kept pace with inflation that impacts areas over which the district has no control, such fuel, supplies and food.

Paraeducators have been reaching out to the community through social media and in-person events to get their message across, hosting a forum on March 21 and rallying support at two recent school board meetings. They plan to distribute flyers on Saturday to neighborhoods around the city and will make picket signs and begin organizing for a strike on Sunday.

Winters said she hopes an agreement can be reached to avoid the disruption a strike would cause.

“We are absolutely wanting to get back to work,” she said. “Many of us are also parents of students and we want them in school.”

Failing to come to an agreement in a timely manner could impact two district activities: preparing next year’s budget and making preparations for placing a construction bond and a replacement Educational Programs and Operation Levy (EP&O) on the November ballot. The school district must submit its proposed budget to the Olympic Educational Service District for review by July 10 and adopt the final version by Aug. 31.

“Contractual commitments helps with planning, but we’ll continue to move forward with the development of the budget and enrollment projections, which really drives the budget,” Brewer said. “We’ll start talking about the bond and levy planning in April, depending on how negotiations go, but that might not happen in April, it just depends.”

The PAPEA said it had asked Brewer to participate in negotiations in the hope that it would speed up the bargaining process. But Brewer said he would continue to rely on Human Resources Director Scott Harker, Business and Operations Director Kira Acker and Dry Creek Principal Julie Bryant to work on behalf of the district.

“I have full confidence in the bargaining team. I have confidence in both sides,” Brewer said. “We’ll end up getting the deal done.”

The district sent a letter to families March 29 outlining its position in the stalemate with the PAPEA.


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

More in News

Turns restricted during roundabout construction

Drivers will not be able to make left turns at… Continue reading

Scheduled bridge closures canceled

Overnight closures of the Hood Canal bridge on state Highway… Continue reading

Sen. Kevin Van de Wege.
Van de Wege honored as Legislator of Year

The Washington Farm Bureau has recognized state Sen. Kevin Van… Continue reading

U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, with Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Kilmer recognized by committee as Fiscal Hero

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer has been recognized as Fiscal… Continue reading

The rhododendrons in front of the Clallam County Courthouse are in full bloom on Monday. Spring weather will turn to showers for the rest of this week with high temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula News)
In full bloom

The rhododendrons in front of the Clallam County Courthouse are in full… Continue reading

Officials cautious about shelter

Jefferson considers taking over operations

Habitat of Clallam County to open homes for veterans

Ribbon cutting for four-unit project set for May 28

Clallam commissioners reject McDonald Creek fish passage bid

Estimate more than doubles engineer’s projection

Volunteers work to construct the main play structure of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles on Sunday, the last day of a five-day community build to replace play equipment destroyed by arson in December. The playground, built entirely with donated labor, will be substantially complete with primarily detail work and play surface installation still to come. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)
Finishing touches

Volunteers work to construct the main play structure of the Dream Playground… Continue reading

Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500- to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Sequim site could include 600 homes

Developer eyeing property near John Wayne Marina

Wait times at Olympic Medical Center emergency department improving, board told

Hospital aims to see patients within 30 minutes of arrival

Clallam to develop Salt Creek campsites for trail

Estimated development cost is $15,000 with annual maintenance at $1,500