Washougal teachers air concerns

Lack of a contract, unpaid hours, insurance costs cited

Washougal teachers packed a recent School Board meeting to air their concerns over a lack of a contract.

The Washougal School District has entered into mediation with the teachers’ union after both sides were unable to agree on a contract. A three-year agreement between the Washougal Association of Educators and the district expired Aug. 31.

“I love what I do but it’s extremely challenging,” said Allison McGranahan, a first-grade teacher at Gause Elementary School. “I think about how I will be able to help all students be successful learners. It is a daunting task and I think about it all of the time.”

She explained that she often goes into work 1.5 hours before her contracted start time so she can research curriculum and lesson ideas to help her students be successful.

“I don’t want you to think I am complaining about my job,” she said. “I love what I do. I love seeing the light bulbs click for these students who keep me up at night. I just ask that you think of us the way that we do them. I work with some amazing teachers, but we need your support.”

Teachers stood at the back of the room, many carrying signs. They applauded loudly after each speaker.

Kelly Gregersen, a drama teacher at WHS, told the School Board he loves his job and shouldn’t have to be punished for it.

“I really don’t want to walk out or be here begging,” he said. “But I am one of the top 10 paid teachers in the district and I cannot afford to put my wife on our health plan. We have a little girl with a heart condition that had to be insured, but my wife it not insured on it.”

Pam Ausman, a special education teacher at Washougal High School, is serving on the union’s negotiation team.

“My question is, how much money do you really need [in reserves]?” she said. “Your reserve is well above any others for a district of this size. You have money. My colleagues don’t want all of it, just a fair share.”

Superintendent Mike Stromme has confirmed that the reserves have risen above the district’s policy of at least 6 percent, but that additional balance is in place for future planned expenditures associated with the bond-funded construction projects such as the new elementary school, replacement Jemtegaard Middle School and Excelsior High School, safety upgrades, new transportation facility and other improvements.

“We believe mediation will provide the district and the teacher’s association an opportunity to find mutually acceptable solutions to the remaining issues that center on financial considerations,” he said.

Mediation sessions are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday.