Topic: Jonathan Knapp
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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 10:53 AM
A mediator will join teacher contract talks in Seattle today, which both sides hope will help them resolve their remaining disagreements and avoid the possibility of a teachers strike.
The negotiation teams from Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers union agreed Friday to bring in a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission, said union President Jonathan Knapp.
“We’re just finding it hard to find agreement on some of these issues,” he said today.
Knapp declined to give any details about what’s under discussion, saying the union made a commitment to the district to remain silent at this point of the negotiations. In recent weeks, both sides have said the main disagreements center on how to use test scores in evaluating teachers, whether to add 30 minutes to elementary teachers’ official workday, the size of teacher raises, and the size of caseloads for school staff such as psychologists and physical and occupational therapists.
Negotiators met into the evening Friday, stopping at about 9:30 p.m. The talks are supposed to resume today at noon. School is scheduled to start Wednesday.
Seattle teachers have not taken a strike vote. The union has scheduled a general membership meeting for Tuesday afternoon, when they could vote on a tentative agreement, if one is reached, or decide what to do if they don’t have one. One option is to work without a contract. Another is to strike.
City officials announced Friday that 20 community centers will provide free activities for low-income children if a strike occurs. Here’s a news release from the city with all the information about registering for those programs: http://alerts.seattle.gov/2013/08/30/city-to-provide-free-drop-in-activities-at-community-centers-for-some-public-school-students-in-event-of-school-strike/
August 22, 2013 at 6:24 PM
A proposal to increase the number of students in a class before a classroom aide and higher pay are provided for the teacher was dropped Wednesday by Seattle Public Schools.
The proposal, which was a controversial point in contract negotiations between the school district and the Seattle Education Association (SEA), the local teachers union, would have added two additional students to classrooms in grades 4 to 12. It would have brought fourth- and fifth-grade class sizes to 30 students before an aide and extra pay was given, and high-school teachers could have seen 160 students per day instead of 150.
The current contract expires at the end of the month.
The board meeting Wednesday night was crowded with teachers waiting to hear the decision on the class-size proposal, which would have been a temporary measure. Eventually, money from the capital levy approved in February will be used to create a handful of new schools and expand others to help with excess enrollment issues.
SEA President Jonathan Knapp said the decision was key in “moving the discussion.” He said the negotiations are moving onto other issues such as the metrics by which the district measures student growth and conditional certifications for Teach for America teachers.
The certifications passed a vote of the school board, Seattle School Board member Michael DeBell said.
Correction: The post originally said Michael DeBell was board president. He is a past president.
August 13, 2013 at 5:29 PM
About three months into negotiations over a new contract for Seattle’s teachers, the union is breaking the usual silence around those talks to protest a district proposal to increase class size.
The Seattle Education Association has scheduled a rally Wednesday afternoon to denounce the district’s desire to raise the number of students that can be in each classroom before the district must provide help for the teacher, and pay the teacher more money. The rally is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. outside Franklin High School.
Starting in fall 2014, district officials want to be able to add two additional students to classes in grades 4-12. That would mean that fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms could have 30 students before help or extra money would be required, and high school teachers could see 160 students instead of 150 per day.
District officials have told the union that raising class sizes is a short-term solution to the district’s space problems, given its growing enrollment. A district spokeswoman said Wednesday that she couldn’t confirm that’s the full reason for the proposal.
In the long term, the district is building a handful of new schools and expanding others with money from the capital levy voters approved in February.
Union leaders say the district should find a better, more creative way to deal with its space crunch.
“Any way we try to slice and dice it, raising class sizes doesn’t make any sense to us,” said SEA President Jonathan Knapp. “We don’t feel the district is going in the right direction.”
Under the Washington Supreme Court’s school funding decision, class sizes are supposed to get smaller, not larger. And in a recent national survey on class sizes, Knapp said, Washington ranked 47th.
The class-size issue, he said, is the biggest sticking point in the negotiations over a new teachers contract. The current contract expires at the end of this month.
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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