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Holiday dropped; teachers can rally

Members of the South Whidbey Education Association got an early Christmas present from the South Whidbey Board of Education Monday.

The gift, a requested school calendar change, will allow teachers to participate in a statewide rally in Olympia Jan. 14 to push for better teacher pay and more school funding. The date, which was a scheduled school day, will get swapped with a President's Day observance Feb. 14, which was planned as a day off for students .

Superintendent Martin Laster offered three scenarios to accommodate the requested calendar change. The first being to keep the schools open with the teachers who weren't planning to attend and substitutes; the second added an extra day to the school year in June. The third option, the day swap, was unanimously approved by the school board.

It still wasn't the ideal option for school board president Ray Gabelein, Jr.

"My first choice is to send a delegation and have schools stay open," he said.

Once the resolution passed, board director Jim Adsley encouraged parents to go to Olympia for the rally to make a greater impact on state legislators.

SWEA President Lynn James and teacher Rachel Kizer both spoke passionately Monday about the need for teachers to attend the rally.

"We want the Legislature to hear loud and clear that our kids and public education are important to us. We want the legislature to hear loud and clear that they have have to find and fund public education with stability and longevity," James said.

Director Barbara Schneeman wanted to know what the agenda in Olympia on that day will be.

"Do you have meetings set up with Legislators?" Schneeman asked James. She also suggested a letter be sent from the school district's administration and board to the state asking for better eduction funding.

Laster informed her that it had already been done.

Directors Bob Riggs and Helen Price-Johnson supported teacher attendance at the rally.

"Education funding is a state issue. I think the more people we send the better our message will be heard," Riggs said.

Johnson agreed saying she is heartened by the board's decision to support SWEA with a calendar change and she hopes other employers will give people a day off to attend the rally.

"I will be there," she said.

South Whidbey teachers will be join educators from at least 133 other school districts for the Jan. 14 rally. Sixty-three percent of SWEA members voted Dec. 3 to close schools to be part of the rally, which the Washington Education Association calls a "day of action."

The event, planned since last spring will try to persuade lawmakers to protect public school funding while they struggle with a $2 billion budget shortfall.

A calendar change was part of negotiations between SWEA and the district bargaining team last spring. But the two parties could not come to an agreement.The district asked SWEA to guarantee there wouldn't be another strike day or rolling walk-outs.

Director Gabelein asked for that assurance again Monday night.

"I can't predict the future. I can't speak for all the teachers," James said.

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