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November 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM
With President Obama visiting Seattle on Sunday afternoon and evening, officials are warning about traffic and flight delays from mid-Sunday through Monday morning.
The president is scheduled to arrive at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and will depart at 8:50 a.m. Monday, also from Sea-Tac.
An airport spokeswoman said air traffic will be halted a little before Air Force One arrives and remain stopped while Obama is at the airport, but she didn’t expect major delays.
A bigger problem might be getting to or from the airport Sunday or Monday, or driving anywhere in that area, since roads often are shut down for a presidential motorcade. The Washington State Department of Transportation is warning travelers to expect delays on “major highways,” but gives no details.
Obama is scheduled to attend two fundraisers during his stay — one in North Seattle on Sunday afternoon, and a second in the evening in Medina on the Eastside.
November 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM
Two people were rescued in Shilshole Bay early Saturday after one fell off a 40-foot sailboat and the other ended up in the water trying to help.
Three friends spent about 45 minutes trying to get the two men back on the boat, then called 911 at about 3:30 a.m., said Sue Stangl, Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman. The two men were wearing life jackets when authorities arrived, she said, which helped them stay afloat in the frigid water.
“In my opinion, that saved them,” Stangl said. She did not have the ages of the two men, but said they were not teenagers or young adults.
After receiving the 911 call, the Seattle Police Department sent one of its harbor patrol boats, and the Coast Guard responded as well, as did the King County Sheriff’s Office with a helicopter, Stangl said. The people on the sailboat, who were about a mile offshore, sent up flares so authorities could find them, Stangl said.
The two men had symptoms of hypothermia, and were taken to Harborview Medical Center.
The Coast Guard vessel accompanied the sailboat back to the marina, Stangl said.
September 30, 2013 at 6:25 PM
The state Supreme Court should, at minimum, sternly warn state legislators that they will face sanctions if they don’t ramp up public school funding more rapidly than they did this year, the plaintiffs in the successful school-funding lawsuit said today.
The plaintiffs — a group known as the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) — made that request in a legal brief to the court, part of the court’s ongoing monitoring of the lawsuit, which is known as the McCleary case after the lead plaintiff.
In that case, the justices ruled that the Legislature is violating the state’s constitution by failing to provide ample funding for public education. The court gave lawmakers a 2018 deadline to pay for programs and services estimated to cost $3 billion to $4 billion per biennium.
Many critics, including the NEWS group, have argued that the state is not making enough progress toward that goal, adding at most $1 billion a year in the 2013-15 budget and, NEWS argues, less than that if budget cuts are counted.
In its brief, NEWS urged the court to do more than cheer for a better result next year.
“Is a constitutional right a real right, or just a nice sounding platitude,” the brief said. “Must elected officials obey the constitution, or are they above it?”
September 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Two Washington organizations dedicated to increasing and improving pre-kindergarten learning opportunities announced today that they will merge, effective the first of next year.
Thrive by Five Washington and the Foundation for Early Learning will combine their efforts, which include giving grants to organizations working to boost early learning, and increasing the awareness of parents and other caregivers about child development.
The Foundation, established in 2000, grew out of a state commission on early learning with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Thrive by Five is a public-private partnership founded in 2006 by businesses and foundations.
Don Stark, board chair of the Foundation, said in a statement that the merger will increase the reach of both organizations and “forge new opportunities for the children of Washington state.”
September 6, 2013 at 5:32 PM
UPDATE, 9:53 | Negotiators from the Snoqualmie Valley School District and it’s teachers’ union broke from talks around 9:15 tonight without reaching an agreement. The two sides will return to the bargaining table Saturday.
ORIGINAL POST | The teachers union in the Snoqualmie Valley School District says teachers there were going to pack up their classrooms today so they’ll be ready to strike if representatives can’t reach an agreement with the school district on a new contract.
The teachers previously voted to go on strike on Monday if no contract agreement is reached by 3 p.m. on Sunday. The union says the big issue is class size, saying teachers want limits on the number of students per class, not just extra money for teachers assigned large classes.
On its website, the district says it has set boundaries for class sizes in elementary schools, although the limits are listed as “targets,” with compensation for teachers if the number of students exceed those targets.
The district also said it is offering the raises that the union requested: 2 percent for the 2013-14 school year, 2 percent in 2014-15 and another 2 percent in 2015-16.
The two negotiating teams were scheduled to meet this afternoon, and the talks are expected to continue throughout the weekend, the union said.
September 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM
Parents, students and teachers in Seattle may not have known until about 8 last night whether school would start today, but classes seemed to get under way without a hitch across the city — including at Muir Elementary, where Superintendent Jose Banda visited, talking a little about the contract vote but more about a new art program.
Muir had held an open house on Tuesday afternoon, just before the city’s teachers met downtown to decide whether to accept a tentative agreement for a new two-year contract. Parents and children went home still wondering what might happen, including a strike.
Principal Awnie Thompson told them to listen to the news.
Parent Christine Johnson said she and her second-grade son returned from out-of-town Monday and found three messages from the school district on their answering machine. The first one – for parents to prepare for a possible strike – made her heart sink. But the third held good news – the district and the union had reached a tentative settlement.
When the final call came Tuesday night, saying teachers had voted to approve a new contract, Johnson and many other parents said they were relieved and happy
At Muir this morning, the biggest problem was that the bells had not been adjusted for the school-year schedule, so they didn’t ring at the right times. Thompson said that meant school staff would have to ring them manually today.
“If that’s as bad as it gets,” she said, “we’re good.”
September 3, 2013 at 8:10 PM
Seattle teachers approved a new two-year contract Tuesday, ending contentious negotiations that raised the possibility of a strike, one that would have been the first in this city in decades.
The new contract was approved by a show of hands at Benaroya Hall with about 1,500 of the district’s 3,000 teachers in attendance.
The vote paved the way for school to open on time Wednesday, even as many young students probably went to bed Tuesday night without knowing for sure whether they would be going to class in the morning.
The majority of teachers decided the district’s offer was good enough, with a two percent raise for the 2013-14 school year 2.5 percent the year after, and compromises on a number of issues, including the use of test scores in judging how well teachers do their jobs.
“I trust their work,” Eckstein Middle School teacher Kristin Bailey-Fogerty said before the vote, referring to the teachers’ bargaining team.
“There isn’t anything in the proposal that’s worth a rejection vote.”
But there was a significant minority, too, who wanted the union to go back to the bargaining table.
“They threw us a couple of bones, but we’re hungrier than that,” Noam Gundle, a Ballard science teacher, said before the vote.
In a meeting Monday, where union representatives from each school voted on whether to recommend the contract to their colleagues, the result was a tie. Jonathan Knapp, the union’s president, cast the final vote in favor of approval.
For the dissenting teachers, one big issue was the use of test scores in evaluations, something the union wanted to suspend for two years given the number of changes that are coming up, including new state tests and new state laws regarding how teachers’ work should be judged. The district acknowledged that changes are on the horizon, but didn’t want to stop using test scores in the meantime. As it stands now, test scores aren’t an official part of a teachers’ evaluations, but if their students aren’t making enough progress, that can trigger a closer look at their performance.
The union and the school district reached the tentative agreement early Sunday after a week in which teachers raised the possibility of a strike. They had rejected one contract offer from the district, and teachers held informational pickets as negotiators returned to the bargaining table. They ended up with an agreement that struck some middle ground on pay raises, increased the length of elementary teachers’ workday and keeps test scores as part of how teacher job performance is evaluated.
Union leaders said that the pay increases are the biggest that teachers have received in five years. By some counts, the new contract will keep Seattle as one of the top paid districts in the Puget Sound area, although some teachers also point out that their expenses are higher here, too.
The new contract also extends the required work day of elementary-school teachers by 30 minutes, putting them on par with their middle- and high-school colleagues. The compromise was how they use that time, with teachers retaining a lot of flexibility in deciding how to spend it.
The agreement also calls for the district to work toward setting limits for the caseloads for school psychologists and occupational and physical therapists, and a pledge to add more such school employees. And it includes a new system for special education in Seattle, which both sides hope will bring improvement to services that have drawn considerable criticism from parents and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The district earlier had withdrawn a proposal that union leaders had said was the most problematic – one that would have raised the number of students who could be in classes from grades 4-12.
Two other groups of school employees also approved new contracts, too – the paraprofessionals such as classroom aides, and school secretaries.
September 3, 2013 at 3:23 PM
UPDATE: 10 p.m. | Snoqualmie Valley teachers voted tonight to start school tomorrow under the terms of the old contract and continue talks this week to hammer out a a new contract, district spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm said.
Another discussion is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, in which the teachers union will consider a new proposal by the district on compensation and class sizes, the two most hotly contested issues, Malcolm said.
The offer includes a 1 percent salary increase in the first year, another 1 percent increase in the second year and a 2 percent increase in the third year, Malcolm said. The district’s proposal also limits elementary class sizes, she said, and includes additional compensation for teachers whose classes exceed maximum size limits, which vary by grade.
UPDATE: 7:25 p.m. | Bad news, Snoqualmie Valley students: There’s school tomorrow.
The district and its teachers union have agreed to extend negotiations over a new contract until next weekend to allow school to start Wednesday as scheduled, according to a district spokeswoman.
ORIGINAL POST: Seattle teachers aren’t the only ones without a contract in place for the upcoming school year.
The Washington Education Association reports that educators in Snoqualmie Valley School District also have not reached an agreement with their school district, and are scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss what to do. As in Seattle, options include a strike, or working without a contract while negotiations continue.
The unresolved issues include class size and pay increases.
September 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM
Seattle teachers will vote tonight on whether to accept a proposed contract for the next two years, an agreement that appears to reach some middle ground on pay raises, would increase the length of elementary teachers’ workday, and would keep test scores a part of how teachers’ job performance is evaluated.
The agreement was reached very early Sunday by negotiators for Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers’ union. Both groups are recommending that teachers approve the contract, although a vote Monday in the union’s representative assembly was very close — 48 for ratification of the proposal, and 47 against. According to some teachers who were there, Union President Jonathan Knapp cast the 48th vote in favor.
The district and the union aren’t publicly talking about the proposal until after tonight’s vote, but some of the details are leaking out, given that the union has provided copies to its 5,000 members, of which roughly 3,000 are teachers. (Someone also provided links on the union’s Facebook page, see links here and here.)
Under the proposal, teachers would get a 2 percent raise for the 2013-14 school year, and then 2.5 percent for 2014-15. The district had earlier proposed 2 percent for both years; the union reportedly wanted 2.5 percent. Teachers also would get an additional 1.3 percent raise because earlier this year, state legislators ended furlough days for state employees.
The proposed agreement also calls for the required workday for elementary school teachers to increase by 30 minutes, but starting in fall 2014, not this school year. The additional time would be used for planning and collaboration, as the district wanted. The union had proposed increasing students’ school day by 30 minutes as well, restoring a half hour of art, music and P.E. classes that were discontinued years ago.
The district also would continue to use state test scores in evaluating teachers, not as part of a teacher’s formal job performance review, but as an indicator of whether a teacher’s performance needs a closer look. The union had wanted to suspend the use of test scores in teacher evaluation for two years as the district and the union jointly worked on a new teacher evaluation system, required under a new state law. Under the proposed agreement, the district would continue to use its old system and develop the new one.
The agreement also includes a new system for special education in Seattle, which both sides hope will bring improvement to services that have drawn considerable criticism from parents and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. That is one of the big changes in the proposal that hasn’t received much attention, because both sides agreed on it early in the negotiations.
Given the split vote Monday in the union’s representative assembly, some teachers say tonight’s vote may be close as well, and likely will lead to some tough discussions.
“It’s good for our solidarity to be united and we’re not united,” said Noam Gundle, a science teacher at Ballard High.
August 31, 2013 at 5:07 PM
A van and a light-rail train collided north of Othello Station this afternoon, but the accident was minor and no one was injured, said Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason.
Reason had few details about the accident at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Brandon St. After the accident, Sound Transit used just one track for about 30-45 minutes.
The train involved in the incident was headed north, Reason said, and afterward, was taken out of service for inspection.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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