Selah School District dispute over wages - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Selah School District dispute over wages

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SELAH, WA - There was outrage at the Selah School District tonight, involving the sudden change of a school board meeting this week.

The district is in the middle of a battle over wages with dozens of front-line school employees including bus drivers and secretaries, who say they want a living wage.

Yesterday's school board meeting was supposed to be at seven in the evening, but on Monday afternoon the district sent notices that it would be held at seven in the morning.

The move angered employees, who say the district changed it after notices were put up on staff room bulletin boards for a protest rally outside the district office.

"I think they were afraid. I mean, there were a lot of people going to show up at that meeting and they were going to ask the hard questions," said Robin Gordy, Athletics Secretary at Selah High School. "It's like a month, five weeks, six weeks between mediation meetings and when they come to the table they don't give an inch. When you go to mediation you're supposed to start moving towards some middle ground. We have and they have not." 

Superintendent Shane Backlund says the decision to change the meeting was made last Friday because of two scheduling conflicts, and it's the district's policy to send out notices on board meeting agendas on Monday afternoons.

But Backlund recognizes that the timing of protest fliers going up and the changing notices of the meeting was odd.

"Yeah, we understand what that looks like, of course," said Backlund. "Actually, we had that conversation last week when we were discussing the change but really it's important that we get the business of the school district done. We decided to make the change knowing that the optics might not be great, but it is really about trying to make sure all of our board is there together, collaborating, and working together on decisions and the business of the district." 

Backlund says that mediation meetings between the district and front-line employees have been scarce because the district has to work around the schedule of the mediator.

But employees are not working without a contract; the provisions of their old contract are still in place.

Meanwhile, he's hopeful that the district will reach a contract deal by the end of the school year.