PASD board approves pact with paraeducators

Two-year agreement hikes salary steps, wages

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School Board unanimously approved without discussion a two-year contract agreement ratified by the Port Angeles Paraeducator Association on April 14.

The agreement approved Thursday increases the number of salary steps with a 1.8 percent wage bump at each step.

It also adds enhancements for paraeducators with more than 12 years of experience.

After working without a contract since Sept. 1, the 130 members of the PAPEA walked off the job April 8 and were joined by members of the teachers union, closing Port Angeles schools for five days.

The Teamsters, which represent mechanics and maintenance workers, and the Port Angeles Activity Advisors’ Association, which represents coaches, have yet to reach agreements with the district.

Two parents of children who attend district schools spoke during public comment, encouraging more engagement between the board, parents and the community and suggesting ways in which they could all work together to avoid future labor disruptions and strengthen the district’s financial security.

“We are looking to be involved,” Jessica Pankey said. “We’re just wanting to be part of the solution so that we can advocate appropriately with the Legislature and the opportunities we have to represent our school district as parents.”

Ned Hammar, MD, offered a short vocal and acoustic guitar introduction to his comments.

“We recognize the pressure you are under, and have to make extremely difficult decisions,” Hammar said of inadequate state funding that has squeezed the district’s budget. “We want to come to the table and work with you and advocate with you when the school bond and levies come up this fall so that you feel like we have your back and we feel like you have our back.”

Director Mary Hebert suggested the board find a way for it to work with those who had reached out and address the concerns they had raised.

“I’m grateful that people are here tonight to voice their interest in supporting us and finding out ways to do that,” Hebert said.

The board agreed to place a discussion on the agenda for its next meeting on how to best engage with parents and the community to work successfully together.

Enrollment fuels school district funding and Port Angeles saw a slight uptick in March, Superintendent Marty Brewer said. So far this month, there are 3,351 FTE students — up from 3,323 in March but still below the 3,365 the district had budgeted for the school year.

Th district’s online learning program, Seaview Academy, over the past few months has added 41 students, many of whom don’t live in the district.

“A lot of the increase at the academy is related to high school students trying to recover courses to graduate,” Brewer said. “Many of the big ALE [alternative learning experience] service providers won’t allow you to share an FTE.”

Port Angeles takes a portion of the FTE and allows the student to remain in his or her district which takes the remaining FTE— 0ther ALEs have “all or nothing” policies, Brewer said.

The board heard a report from family navigators Alicia Scofield and Summer Cooper and supervisor Tanner Zahrt on how the program supported students who faced significant barriers to accessing education, including poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and being in foster care.

There are 187 students enrolled in the district who are homeless — an almost 60 percent increase from 118 students during the 2022-23 school year. These students lack fixed, regular and adequate housing and live in cars, motels, emergency shelters or substandard living places.

Since the family navigator program began as a pilot in the 2018-2019 academic year, attendance for students who were homeless has increased and behavior incidents have decreased.

The program has helped about one in 10 of district students in a variety ways. Scofield and Cooper distribute food and gas cards, as well as clothing and toiletries, transport students and families and make home visits to help families connect with social services.

Brewer reported the capital project levy for Stevens Middle School had collected about $32 million toward its $52 million goal. When all of the funds of are collected in 2025, construction of the new school can begin.

The district spends about $1 million a month for school supplies and $ 4 million in staffing and benefits.

Roosevelt Elementary School sixth-graders Mila Johnson and Brendan Walters received certificates as the district’s students of the month.

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

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