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New contracts approved at four school districts, three still on strike

CLARK COUNTY — Four of the eight area school districts on strike reached a settlement over the holiday weekend. Students at Ridgefield and Hockinson are back in class today after nearly a week of delay. Camas schools are starting on time after teachers voted late last month to strike if a new deal wasn’t reached.

This morning, 1,517 Vancouver teachers came to Skyview High School to vote on a deal there, with 92.4 percent approving. The contract would reportedly increase teacher pay by approximately 12.5 percent this year, with a two percent bump the following two years. That would put starting pay at $50,413 this year, with the top end at $95,019. In 2020-2021, top-end pay would be around $99,000. Vancouver teachers will be back in class on Wednesday.

Vancouver school teachers gather at Skyview High School on Tuesday to vote for a new contract. Photo courtesy Vancouver Education Association

In Hockinson, teachers unanimously approved their new deal at a meeting on Monday. The school board has scheduled a special meeting on Wednesday to vote on the deal, but school began Tuesday.

The deal will give Hockinson teachers a 14.5 percent raise this school year, and another 2 percent bump in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. This year, the new salary range will be from $49,578 to $93,445. The deal also includes reduced class sizes for K-5, and decreased workload for special education teachers.

“We appreciate our community’s patience during these negotiations and their enthusiastic support for education in Hockinson,” said Superintendent Sandra Yager. “We are eager to welcome our staff and students back to school and to embark on another exciting school year.”

Ridgefield teachers also voted Monday to approve a new contract there, though not unanimously. It will increase teacher compensation by 16.2 percent this year, with an additional 5 percent raise in years two and three of the contract. The district says that equates to a 26.06 percent pay increase over last school year by the end of the new contract. The salary range for teachers next year will be from $48,346 to $95,788. In year three, it will be $50,774 to $100,598. The district also agreed to gradually reduce K-3 class sizes, and put a cap on middle and high school classes. The Ridgefield Education Association says teachers will also be given a stronger voice in the selection of curriculum.

In Camas, teachers approved two-year deal that will increase a raise that will see starting salaries next year begin at $50,727, and top out at $97,529 for someone with 16 years of experience, a Master’s Degree, and 90 college credits. In 2019-2020, that will range will be $52,868-$100,110. The second year will also reduce the number of years required to reach the top end down to 15.

Evergreen School District

Clark County’s largest district, Evergreen, remains on strike, and teachers are indicating that a deal may not be imminent. School has been canceled for at least a sixth day, through Wednesday. The district says both sides are reviewing proposals from meetings over the weekend. A state mediator is scheduled to meet with both sides again on Wednesday morning.

On Monday, the district released a statement with details of their latest offer which, they say, would keep Evergreen teachers the highest paid in southwest Washington. The two-year deal would start teachers out at $51,288 this year, and $52,263 next year, with a top end going from $98,279 to $100,090. The district says $11,561 per full-time teacher would still be coming out of local levy money, which is being reduced by $29.5 million dollars per year starting in January. According to the district’s calculations, that would mean potential cuts to other levy-funded resources starting in 2019-2020.

The Evergreen Education Association has blamed Superintendent John Steach of stonewalling negotiations, sometimes failing to show up and not empowering people sent in his place with the ability to make concessions.

Battle Ground School District

In Battle Ground, the district sent out a revised offer on Monday it says would equate to a 19.3 percent raise over the next three years. It would increase the average teacher income in Battle Ground from $66,685 last year, to $73,343 this year, and $79,534 in year three. The Battle Ground Education Association is, according to the district, asking for a one-year deal with a raise of just over 24 percent.

“Like the other districts that have settled around us, we believe we can give our teachers a fair and sustainable increase that utilizes all of the McCleary money in multiple years,” Battle Ground Superintendent Mark Ross said in the statement.

“As it stands, with the levy reduction over the next two years, we are already looking at ways to reduce costs in years two and three,” Ross said. “With our high percentage of unfunded staff, we may need to make some difficult decisions in the years to come. However, we believe our extra support staff are more than nice to have; they are critical to providing a quality learning environment for our students. Any future cuts we are looking at would come from multiple areas in the organization.”

Washougal School District

Things have gotten a little testy in Washougal as contract negotiations continue. On Monday, the district released what they said was the latest proposal from the Washougal Association of Educators. It would increase base starting pay to $53,054 next year, with the top end at $99,999. The district says their latest proposal is for a starting wage of $51,522 and a top end of $95,783.

In a statement on their Facebook page, WAE says it is disappointed that the district decided to release “misleading financial documents”, though they didn’t detail what was misleading about them. WAE says “We will provide accurate numbers when a tentative agreement is made.”

Bargaining was expected to continue this morning, and the district has not yet announced whether school for Wednesday will be canceled.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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