Tacoma teachers approve contract, classes start Friday

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 12:09 AM

Poll:
Should Gov. Gregoire intervene in the Tacoma teachers strike, or should the two sides figure it out on their own?

TACOMA, Wash. -- Teachers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a new contract, officially ending the weeklong strike in the Tacoma School District. Classes will start Friday for the district's 28,000 students.

"This strike is over!" shouted Andy Coons, Tacoma Education Association president.

Out of the 2,000 members of the TEA who gathered at Tahoma High School, 98 percent voted to ratify the new contract.  

Details of the new three year contract included the following:

  • No changes to class size
  • No pay changes for teachers
  • Any changes to the teacher reassignment policy will have to be approved by a committee of district officials and union representatives. No changes can be made until next school year.

Nine school days will need to be made up as a result of the strike. Therefore, one week will be added to the end of the school year. In addition, school will be held on what would have been the first two days of Winter Break. and two days built in as potential snow days (one in February and one in May ) will now be regular school days.

A tentative agreement was reached Wednesday after both sides had a seven-hour mediation session with Gov. Chris Gregoire. She stepped in as a mediator after it appeared negotiations were getting nowhere.

Both sides said the new contract agreement is fair.

"It's been a long process but we got what we've been looking for. We have a fair contract that respects the teachers and is also good for the students of Tacoma," said Coons.

The way the district reassigns teachers, which was the main point of contention for many teachers, will not change in the current school year. But starting this year a committee of teachers and school district officials will look at potential changes for next year. The union originally wanted to maintain the current system based on a teacher’s seniority. Under the contract, any changes in the policy would need a two-thirds majority.

Tacoma’s superintendent believes the system will eventually change.

“We cannot stay with just seniority. We need to have a process that engages them [teachers]. This is their opportunity,” said Superintendent Art Jarvis.

A lot of parents were also happy about getting their kids back to school. The agreement comes in the nick of time. The district said it has received a handful of requests from parents who were fed up with the strike and ready to transfer.

"None of us saw this coming," said parent Jennifer Harrison.

"I think all families are probably feeling some pain from the extra money that it's cost them to try to find daycare for the children because they're out of school," said parent Nikki Ray.

Now that the contract agreement has been approved, lawsuits against the teachers for defying a judge's order to return to work have been dropped. 

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