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School district in talks with employee union

Negotiations under way

for new classified staff contract.

Contract negotiations are under way this week between Bainbridge Island School District and the union representing the district’s classified employees.

A three-year contract between the school district and members of the Bainbridge Island Educational Support Professionals Association expired at the end of August. Bargaining on a new contract began Dec. 3.

School district Supt. Faith Chapel said the district requested to begin working out the new contract as early as spring of 2008, but hadn’t received collective bargaining dates from BIESPA until late in November.

“Our desire was to sit down and work through salary issues as soon as we could,” Chapel said.

BIESPA co-president Roger Kanchuck said his union had decided to hold off on negotiating a new contract until the end of October, when it’s affiliate, the Washington Education Association, would have the opportunity to analyze the district’s fall enrollment numbers and budget.

BIESPA has filed three grievances claiming the district is violating the terms of its agreement, Kanchuck said.

One grievance dealt with a the state-mandated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for employees. According to Kanchuck, the district was obligated to provide BIESPA members with the full COLA plus 1 percent, but the district had withheld COLA beginning in September.

Both the district and BIESPA believe the COLA issue was resolved at the bargaining table, and that the adjustment will be made retroactively.

Also being contested are the district’s layoff and recall policies.

BIESPA contends that the district has not taken into account the seniority of support staff employees as it has made layoffs and hour cuts. Kanchuck said the district has been posting openings without giving priority to laid-off employees.

Chapel said the district had made hour cuts with a priority on maximizing staff time spent with students. She said layoff and recall policies needed to be better defined in the contract with BIESPA, especially with sour economic forecasts making future budget cuts a serious possibility.

Kanchuck said other grievances will likely be filed.

“In order to protect our contract language we have to do these things,” Kanchuck said. “And that’s why we continue to do these things, time after time.

If the negotiations are fruitless, the issue could be settled by an arbitrator. Chapel said the district wants to settle the contract through negotiations.

“Our goal is to try to move forward and get this resolved,” Chapel said.

In order to account for a $1.5 million shortfall, the school district cut 17 full-time paraeducator positions, trimmed hours from three full-time paraeducator positions and made numerous hourly cuts to other classified staff positions. BIESPA has charged the district of downplaying the severity of its personnel cuts, something Chapel strongly denies.

“We very much care about what happens with our employees. The greatest resource a district has is its employees,” she said. “It’s the people who are the core of our district, so every time we make budget cuts and have to impact people, it’s never taken lightly.”

Kanchuck said BIESPA will hold a general meeting Thursday and a number of members will speak at the school board meeting that evening.

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