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Salary Negotiations Continue for Clarkston Teachers, Staff

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School wasn't even let out for summer before Clarkston teachers and staff had to start planning for the future.

Several big changes made during the last day of Washington's legislative session means pay increases are coming, but that leaves lots of decisions to be made at the local level. It's unfamiliar territory for both the teachers' union and Clarkston School District,

Averaging over 100 people each time, the "Red for Ed" rallyers - members of Clarkston's Education Association and supporters - filled the green lawn at 13th and Chestnut.

"There are power in numbers," Christy Simons, a teacher and president of the union, says.

It was the second rally outside the Clarkston School District office. "We're here to give support to our bargaining team," Simons said of the June 5th rally.

As negotiations for teacher salary pushed on into their third week, they stood strong outside, while inside, the second bargaining meeting since May 23rd took place.

"School is the heart and soul of every community," Simons says. "These people take care of your kids."

District Superintendent Tim Winter says the closed door meetings with five union reps have been a collaborative effort. "In the bargaining room it's really going well. I mean, we are working together and that truly is what we're trying to do is work together. We know that we want to give salary increases, we know our teachers want salary increases."

The question - how much? In early March, the state legislature allocated nearly one billion dollars for teacher salaries across the state; $1.4 million went to the Clarkston district alone. Every staff member stands to get a raise - some by over 3.1%.

"We stand to give them an increase that is greater than any increase they've had in a single year," Winter says.

The state legislature also eliminated the statewide salary schedule, meaning every school district in Washington State now has to negotiate how to allocate those funds over the next four years.

"Every single one of us works hard and is dedicated and deserves a living wage," Simons says. She adds extra emphasis when she say, "And to not be falling behind all the time with our salaries." She says for the past 11 years, their pay hasn't risen above the cost of living adjustment. "Some of our expenses, like medical insurance, have had double-digit percentage raises and our salaries just not have kept up."

Winter says he understands those obstacles. "Health insurance is one of the highest in the nation - health insurance in Washington - the cost of living keeps going up and we're trying to keep up, but we can only deal with what the legislature gives us as far as money."

With at least two more bargaining sessions scheduled in the coming months, there's a number teachers, staff, and their supporters want the district to remember.

"They're not just bargaining with five people, they're bargaining with over 170 of us," Simons says of the union members.

Winter is optimistic that a good deal can be reached, though he adds it likely can't please everyone. "As we talk about moving forward, it's moving forward with our people, because people are our most valuable resource."

Whatever decisions are made will take effect in the 2018-19 school year.

The next bargaining session is set for June 15th; you can find out more about what's happening in those sessions on the district website: www.csdk12.org.

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