Wapato School District and teachers reach tentative contract agr - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Wapato School District and teachers reach tentative contract agreement

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9-3-18 UPDATE

WAPATO, WA- The Wapato School District and Wapato Education Association have reached a signed tentative contract agreement, including a new salary schedule, for its teachers and other certificated staff.

The agreement was reached during a scheduled mediation session on Monday, September 3, 2018. As a result of the agreement the 2018-2019 school year will start on schedule tomorrow, Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

The District credits the agreement to the focused work and professionalism of both bargaining teams. It wants to thank the members of both teams for completing the complex job of navigating new State school funding law and developing the fair, equitable and sustainable agreement the District has been confident would be reached through the negotiations process.

The district will not be sharing specifics of the agreement until ratified by the Wapato Education Association membership and adopted by the Wapato School Board of Directors.

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8-31-18 UPDATE:

WAPATO, WA - There were some pretty tense moments Friday morning at the Wapato School District meeting. Security hired by the board told teachers, parents and students there was only room for people who could sit in chairs in the board room.

Teachers and parents were expecting the board to open up the meeting with public comment, but that didn't happen. The board immediately went into closed session.

The board voted today, and it was by majority vote to take a procedural step than provide the district the authority to take steps if the teachers decide to strike.

Both parties are still in mediation as part of the ongoing negotiations.

Another mediation session is scheduled for Monday, and the first day of class is scheduled to start Tuesday.

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8-29-18 UPDATE:

WAPATO, WA - We've been keeping track of the negotiations teachers have been involved in regarding their salaries with the Selah and Wapato School Districts... which both have yet to reach a final agreement.

Wapato teachers have voted to strike if there is no agreement before Tuesday, the first day of school.

However, in Selah, it's looking like an agreement is in the works.

During last night's bargaining session, the Selah School District and teachers came to a tentative agreement. Now what's left is to put a final contract together.

On the bright side, Selah schools started this week, and so far teachers have been showing up and no school days have been canceled.

As of now, Wapato teachers and the district are hoping to reach an agreement during a mediation session scheduled for this Friday. If there is no agreement before September 4, the teachers have voted to strike.

"I want to show that respect, but when I find that a teacher in Toppenish is going to make eighteen grand more than me, it's hard to swallow," said Chris Treat, a teacher at Wapato High School during a negotiation session.

To make things clear, it's important to understand that: 

1: Not all districts are receiving the same budget. Districts like West Valley received extra money because of something referred to as the "regionalization factor"

2. State funding is set to increase, and local funding is set to decrease. The Washington State School Directors Association says "over a third of Washington school districts are going to lose 50 percent or more of levy funding." This causes a problem because levy money in many districts helps pay for enrichment programs, so this all complicates how much money the districts actually have.

Overall, teachers are getting a lot of community support from students and parents, and the teachers say they are fighting to stay.

"I said NO, Wapato is going to take care of me; they always have," said Treat. "They have asked me to do stuff and as a person I have been respected."

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8-28-18 UPDATE:

WAPATO, WA - It's exactly a week before Wapato schools are scheduled to begin, and teachers are still trying to reach a fair salary agreement with the school district.

"For us, it's more than just what you see right here," said Johnny Gomez, a teacher at Wapato Middle School. "Just like all the other districts that are settling; they are settling for not only themselves but for the future teachers that are coming out. The kids that want to graduate and become teachers themselves and be able to say, 'hey, I'm a teacher.' "

Teachers say getting a raise will not just benefit them - it will also help the community.

"These raises aren't just so we can support our own pockets,"said Donald Dichiara, a teacher at Wapato High School. "It's to keep qualified individuals in a classroom so that we can teach future generations."

Earlier, the Wapato School District announced they are canceling all open houses due to ongoing teacher negotiations. This comes a day after teachers were asked to leave school property on the first open house at Camas Elementary.

"Because it appeared that they were in a protest-type mode and doing some picketing information ally that way that had to do with their message, it was really becoming a disruption to our school district-organized event for parents tonight," explained Mike Balemlli, Public Relations for the Wapato School District.

Regardless of being asked to get off school property, teachers were still greeting families and advocating for themselves; something that really stood out to parents.

"It means everything to us," said Ken Hamilton, a parent. "They are basically raising our community, you know... this is our future, so it means the world to us. I know it will impact them; it already has impacted them."

The teachers strongly believe the district is not listening to what they want.

"Not willing to make the change and to spend the money that has been allocated for by the state; that's the hard part," said Karissa Lawrence, a teacher at Wapato Middle School. "The state allocation is for the teacher salary, so please put it to the teachers' salary."

In response, the district says: "There's so many moving pieces when it comes to being able to take that amount of money that you have to allocate towards programs and salaries within your school district, build a salary schedule, make sure you have enough money for the programs that you want to fund, and then make it sustainable because you just can't fund one year," said Balemlli. "We've got to look into the future."

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8-28-18 ORIGINAL STORY:

WAPATO, WA - The remaining open houses for the Wapato School District, including this Friday's High School freshman orientation, have been canceled.

Due to ongoing negotiations with the teachers union (Wapato Education Association), it has come to the District’s attention that teachers have chosen not to participate in the evening school open house events as planned for their  families this week (August 28-31).

As a result, the District says it is with much regret they have decided to cancel the remaining open houses which were scheduled at Simcoe and Adams Elementary Schools, Wapato Middle School and Wapato High School. The cancellation also includes the Wapato High School freshman orientation event planned for this Friday evening.

"Open houses are meant for the purposes of welcoming families to the start of the new school year," the District's press release read. "They give families the opportunity to visit their child’s school prior to the first day. Families are able to learn the lay-out of the building, but more importantly meet the staff, meet their child’s teacher and begin building a family to school relationship or continue to build on the relationship already established in previous years. Without teacher participation it greatly inhibits those intentions."

The Wapato School District apologizes to their families and thanks them for their understanding of this decision.

The first day of school for Wapato Public Schools is scheduled for Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The District looks forward to seeing all our families on the first day.

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