Kent teachers meet to discuss contract negotiations with first day of school days away

In Kent, school is due to start this week but contract negotiations for the district’s teachers are still ongoing.

KENT, Wash. – Schools are scheduled to start in Kent this week, but contract negotiations for the district’s teachers are still ongoing.

The Kent Education Association, the union representing more than 1,800 teachers, held a meeting Monday night to discuss the status of the negotiations.

As families soak up the final days of summer holidays in Kent, there are doubts about the first day of school.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen, but there are rumors that there could be a strike, so my summer could be a few days longer,” said Madeline Goldsmith.

Goldsmith plans to start her senior year at Kentwood High. It is in a district with more than 40 schools and academies serving 24,983 students. This Thursday, classes 1 to 12 should be back in the classrooms.

Layla Jones, the vice president of the Kent Education Association, said contract talks had not gone well.

“We started dating in July. We were ready to start negotiations in May and it was delayed, delayed, delayed,” Jones said. “Our priorities are mainly student-centric. We want case numbers and class sizes to be manageable so we can support the needs of our students.”

Jones also says Kent lags behind neighboring school districts on pay.

“We want to maintain competitive salaries so we don’t keep losing teachers to our neighboring counties,” she said.

We requested an interview with the school district, and received a message from a district spokesperson that said, in part, “We know it’s best for students if school starts on time, and we’re working toward that goal.”

“My first reaction was, oh no, not again. I thought the district learned a lesson in 2009,” said Lisa Brackin, the former union chair.

She says teachers picketed in 2009.

“The strike lasted 18 calendar days,” Brackin said.

For now, Jones says she sees where the union and the district are far apart.

“We’re nowhere near student support to accomplish those things, and we’re nowhere near being able to get the competitive salaries,” she said.

The school district plans to update families on current labor negotiations on its website.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/education/kent-teachers-school-district-contract-negotiations-strike/281-177f3157-a4ae-49e3-8a74-e6da03a81b51 Kent teachers meet to discuss contract negotiations with first day of school days away

Alley Einstein

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