Letters to the Editor for Nov. 17, 2015

WSD has not supported its teachers

I am writing to inform the general public of the lack of a contract between the Washougal Association of Educators and the Washougal School District. Our last contract expired on Aug. 31, 2015, and we have chosen to continue to work based on the needs of the patrons of the district. The education of their children comes first for us.

We at WAE continue to try to bring the district to a contract that is responsible and respectful to both sides. The district, in our opinion, certainly has the finances. While the economy has been slowly improving, the district has been very conservative in saving money. While the State of Washington calls for a minimum reserve of 3 percent and the district has a board policy of 6 percent, at the end of the 2014-15 school year the district had an end-of-year balance (reserve, as some call it) of 18.7 percent. That comes to approximately $6.5 million, to which the State Legislature has added approximately 2 million in further funding.

It is also time to inform the public that we have not been able to come to an agreement with the district. While the district has been more than prudent in its management of public funds, the district has been sincerely lacking in its responsibilities to its staff. Educators statewide have not been supported by the State Legislature; that is why there has been a Supreme Court ruling as well as contempt of court fines. Locally, several school districts have strongly supported their teachers; however, Washougal has not.

We are not yet advocating a strike for our union. The students don’t deserve such treatment, nor do the patrons of the district. We have, however, filed for mediation and will work through those steps in the hope that we can come to an agreement with the district on a new contract.

The members of the WAE are dedicated to providing an excellent education to all of our students. We must, however, have the means to take care of our own families to do so. We ask that you hear our concerns. We ask that you support us in our goals. While we are honored to be involved in the education of our future, we are also held to be responsible to those that would enter our profession and that responsibility is the process of informing you of our situation.

Further information is available on Facebook at “I Support Washougal Teachers.”

Dr. Frank Zahn, president, Washougal Association of Educators

School bond proposal raises questions

Regarding the proposed $120 million bond the Camas School Board is considering putting on the February 2016 ballot, I have a few thoughts to share.

First, I should make clear that I no longer live and pay school taxes in Camas, therefore my opinion might not be important to citizens. However, I was a 23-year resident of the city until recently and both our children attended Camas schools for their entire K-12 education. So I feel I have some history on this topic.

I noted in the article that appeared in the Nov. 10 issue of the Post-Record that the school board is considering several projects as part of the total bond package. Most of the projects listed make good sense. A new elementary school, parking upgrades for CHS, property for future school sites and improved building safety and facility improvements all seem to be reasonable and very common upgrades a district needs to make over time to protect the community investment.

But I question why the district would opt to build a 600-student magnet high school on the CHS campus, instead of a second high school. Overcrowding of the current high school and the threat of losing touch with many students as a result of that, is a serious issue. I question how a magnet high school would alleviate overcrowding in the long run.

I agree with Mr. Hull and Mr. Lattanzi when they state their concerns about losing touch with students and not being able to encourage more kids to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities with just one traditional high school. That problem exists now and will only get worse without a second high school.

What does the data and research that the school district has say about what Camas families want for their children’s high school education? It’s clear that most of the school board supports the magnet school concept. But do Camas parents really show equal support for it?

As a smaller part of the total package, I would question the real need for the upgrades to the visitors side of Doc Harris Stadium. I do support the turf and lighting improvements. As for Joyce Garver Theater improvements, I would want to know, as a taxpayer, more details of those improvements and how extensive the added community involvement would be before signing off on that portion of the bond package.

Camas citizens, you have a lot to think about before deciding how you want to improve your growing school district. Hopefully you will give the school board ample input before the Nov. 23 board meeting, so that your school representatives can best act on your wishes.

Mike Gallagher, Stevenson