Bethel teacher negotiations entering mediation

A state mediator has been requested by both sides in an attempt to settle contract negotiations between the Bethel School District and the teachers union. The state's Public Employees Relations Commission is entering the talks at a time when the district's top administrator is saying that the situation could affect the scheduled start of the 2016-17 school year next month. In a letter to the community posted on the district's web site, superintendent Tom Seigel said that while he's hopeful a settlement will be reached, the ongoing negotiations "may impact classes.GÇ¥ Negotiations began in March between the district and the Bethel Education Association, the local chapter of the Washington Education Association. Progress reportedly has slowed to the point that a state-assigned mediator is needed to move them along with the approach of Sept. 1, the first day of classes. The district employs more than 1,000 teachers. According to Seigel, the union (BEA) has declined the district's offer of a 10 percent salary increase over the next three years. He said the offer was in response to BEA's "initial proposals (for) over $34 million of increased compensation.GÇ¥ BEA states in information on its web site that its contract issues revolve around "unmanageableGÇ¥ workloads, "too much emphasisGÇ¥ on standardized testing, class sizes that are too big for effective learning, "lack of professional respect by the district,GÇ¥ and salary and benefits, including shrinking or stagnant wages and rising healthcare costs. "We respectfully ask the district to seize this opportunity to demonstrate to our members that they are valued and respected by the district,GÇ¥ the union said in a statement. Seigel said the district is "committed to bargaining in good faith and resolving this situation as quickly as possible.GÇ¥ Bethel has approximately 18,000 students who attend 15 elementary schools, five junior high schools and three comprehensive high schools. The district also has an alternative high school and an online academy. Twice this year, voters in the district rejected bond measures that at least partly addressed class-size issues. The district was seeking about $236 million to be collected from taxpayers over a 20-year period. The biggest portions of the proceeds would have paid for major remodels or new construction involving six schools, plus a new aquatics center. In special elections in February and April, the ballot measure fell short of the 60 percent super-majority required for it to pass.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment