Camas teachers ratify contract, return to class

Agreement addresses cost-of-living increases, maximum classroom sizes

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category icon Camas, Latest News, News, Schools
A vehicle parked outside Helen Baller Elementary School in Camas, Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, displays a sign showing support for striking teachers in the Camas School District. (Photos by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

Members of the Camas Education Association, the union representing 460 educators in the Camas School District, have ratified a new two-year bargaining agreement and returned to the classroom following a strike that began Monday, Aug. 28, and ended Thursday, Sept. 7.

“We, as Camas educators, want to extend our most heartfelt thank you to the community for supporting us over the last two weeks,” the CEA noted on its Facebook page Friday, Sept. 8, the day teachers and students returned to the classroom for the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Camas teachers said they felt supported during their first-ever strike.

“Seeing the community with pink signs in cars and businesses. And seeing teachers and other staff members with all those signs. We felt the love, too,” said Camas music teacher Michael Sanchez, vice president of the CEA and a member of the union’s negotiating team.

“We are so happy and relieved to finally be back in the classroom, and we could not have gotten through this without your support,” the CEA stated Friday.

Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, and said the district would welcome students back to school Friday, Sept. 8.

“We want to express deep appreciation for our dedicated teachers and the negotiation teams who worked tirelessly to reach an agreement that reflects our shared commitment to our students’ well-being and educational experience,” Anzalone stated in his Sept. 6 message to Camas School District families. “Thank you for your continued support, trust and partnership. Together, we create an environment where our students can thrive and succeed.”

New contract addresses cost-of-living increases, maximum classroom sizes

According to the teachers’ union, the new two-year contract offers teachers “wages that keep pace with local inflation” that are the equivalent of a 13% increase over the next two years, with salary bumps of 6.4% in 2023-24 and 6.6% in 2024-25. Prior to the new agreement, teachers in Camas earned between $59,724 and $111,711 a year, depending on their education levels and experience.

The new contract also addresses classroom sizes and, according to the teachers’ union, “reduces the number of students per class” in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, while shifting “from average class size to having baseline and maximum sizes for each class” in middle and high school classrooms.

The new maximum elementary school classroom sizes will range from 21 students in kindergarten (2024-25) to 24 students in grades four and five (2023-24 and 2024-25).

Under the new contract, no Camas teacher will have more than three classes at or over the maximum class size without that teacher’s agreement, and the district will pay educators more when class sizes are larger than the agreed upon baseline: from $10 to $15 a day for one to three students over the maximum in elementary school to $2 to $18 a day for one to four students over the maximum in middle school and high school classrooms.

During the strike, Camas teachers also said they were holding out for more equitable funding for music, library, physical education and health programs. According to the teachers’ union, the new contract addresses this issue and “establishes a resource fund that is distributed on a per-student basis: $80,000 in 2023-24, $100,000 in 2024-25 and $140,000 in 2025-26.”

District to release new 2023-24 school year calendar

The 2023-24 school year in Camas was set to begin Aug. 28, and end June 14. Due to the already planned Labor Day holiday, Sept. 1-4, the teachers’ strike, which lasted Aug. 28 through Sept. 7, resulted in a total of seven missed school days.

Anzalone said the school district will soon release a revised 2023-24 schedule, and that state law requires the district to offer 180 days of instruction.

“The state will grant no exceptions to that law because of a strike,” Anzalone said. “Makeup days will first follow our inclement weather makeup days.”

CSD, Public School Employee union also reach agreement

The Camas School District also said last week that it had reached a tentative agreement with the Public School Employee union representing nearly 650 custodians, bus drivers, paraeducators, health assistants, food services workers, technology, mechanics and maintenance employees.

“We truly appreciate the collaborative process during our negotiations and how diligently both sides worked to create a fair agreement that reflects the values of our district,” PSE negotiators stated in a press release issued Sept. 6.

Marilyn Boerke, the lead negotiator for the Camas School District during the PSE negotiations, said the agreement “reinforces positive and inclusive working environments.”