Camas teachers dodge strike

Students head back for on-time start to new school year

David Volke, Liberty Middle School language arts and social studies teacher, high fives students on the first day of school, Sept. 4.

Having reached a tentative bargaining agreement over Labor Day weekend, Camas teachers avoided a strike and greeted students on the scheduled first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 4. The district and teachers union representatives reached a tentative agreement regarding educator salaries just two days prior, on Sunday, Sept. 2.

The Camas Education Association had voted to strike if the two parties could not reach agreement before the first day of school.

That would have put Camas teachers on the picket lines, along with several Southwest Washington educators, including Washougal teachers, who have been unable to reach agreement on state dollars meant to increase teacher salaries and fulfill a Washington state Supreme Court decision on school funding known as the “McCleary Decision.”

Instead of striking, however, Camas teachers started their 2018-19 school year on time.

Shelley Houle, Camas Education Association (CEA) president, said the two-year agreement has a first-year salary schedule that gives entry-level teachers $50,727 per year, while teachers with 16 or more years experience and a master’s degree plus 90 continuing education credits will earn $97,529 per year.

In the second year, entry-level teachers will earn $52,868 and educators with 15 or more years of experience and a master’s degree plus 90 continuing education credits will make $100,110 per year.

The salary covers 180 seven-hour work days per school year, and includes base pay, TRI (time, responsibility, incentive and enrichment) pay at 3.3 percent of base pay, three voluntary days, professional development days and a longevity stipend.

The longevity stipend is a new addition to teacher contracts, Houle said. The stipend was developed through mediations with the district side to make Camas attractive and able to keep educators with experience and education.

In the first year of the contract, the longevity stipend would reward teachers with 16 years or more of experience and various levels of advanced degrees or continuing education credits an additional $1,700 to $2,750 annually.

In the second year, the range increases to $1,732 to $2,802 and also rewards teachers with 14 or more years experience and various levels of advanced degrees or continuing education credits.

The CEA ratified the contract with 100 percent of union members in attendance at the ratification meeting voting yes, Monday, Sept. 3.

“Our educators are over the moon with this,” Houle said. “They’re thrilled that they didn’t have to go to the picket lines, thrilled that they got to start school on time and are overjoyed.”

Houle said the bargaining teams met for 46 hours in the four days leading up to the agreement, and she was “exhausted but exhilarated” that the teams came to an agreement that values the educators in the district and avoided a work stoppage.

“We are thrilled,” Houle said. “We think it’s a great deal, and are really happy to achieve this agreement with our district.”