South Whidbey School Board approves teachers' contract

After months of deliberation and long meetings, the South Whidbey School Board approved a collective bargaining agreement with teachers this week.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the agreement with the South Whidbey Education Association during a special business meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Valerie Brown, co-president of the association, said the agreement was a tough bargain but she felt good about the outcome.

“The contract was fair and reasonable,” Brown said. “It was a good balance trying to meet the needs of the teachers with district resources.”

Superintendent Jo Moccia highlighted the changes in a letter to the board of directors, most notably the implementation of the teacher/principal evaluation project to enhance instruction and improve accountability for teachers.

The evaluation includes eight state-defined criteria for teachers. The criteria include: focusing high expectations for student achievement, demonstrating effective teaching practices, recognizing students’ learning needs and strategies to meet their needs, providing clear focus on subject matter during the curriculum, fostering a safe learning environment, communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community, and exhibiting practices to improve instruction and student learning.

Teachers will need to complete a seven-step comprehensive evaluation every four years followed by a focused evaluation to improve teaching skills. Teachers will receive a performance rating based on the eight-point evaluation criteria ranging from eight — unsatisfactory — to 32 — distinguished.

Individual evaluations will not be available for public disclosure, according to the contract.

The teachers in the district will transition completely to the new evaluation system by the 2015-2016 school year.

Other changes in the agreement include the superintendent selecting positions for equally-qualified employees, which were formerly chosen by seniority; additional half-days for professional development, more time for technology integration, moving to a 183-day work calendar for the 2013-2014 school year along with an increase in time, responsibility and incentive, or TRI pay.

The district and teachers’ group will continue to work on further issues regarding the evaluations throughout the school year, including support for basic or unsatisfactory teachers, plans for improvement, provisional and probationary teachers and non-renewal and discharge.

Consideration will also be given to reporting evaluation results, documentation, updating the contract with new evaluation language, looking at how the evaluations may affect human resource decisions, and reviewing tools and forms.

Brown said the primary issues for teachers included time for preparing lessons, professional development, compensation, declining enrollment and lack of funding.

As far as the new evaluations are concerned, Brown said it was hard to put parameters around that with the shifting changes at the state level.

School Board Director Steve Scoles, chairman, said the only frustration he had concerned empty promises from the state to fully fund education.

“I think we all share this frustration with the legislative process,” he said.

He said the teachers and staff take on the burden of filling in the gaps to make up for the unfunded mandates.

“We know (teachers) go above and beyond,” Scoles said. “Hopefully someday the state will rise to their paramount duty as well and fund education fully.”

Jo Moccia, superintendent, said she was happy to approve the agreement and felt like they reached fair and equitable terms.

She said it was quite a bit of work to implement the evaluation procedures.

Overall, Brown said she was happy to have reached a settlement.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like we’ve been moving forward,” she said.


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