Aberdeen teachers ratify 18 percent salary increase in new three-year contract

Aberdeen teachers ratified a new three-year contract with the Aberdeen School District at a union meeting on Thursday. The contract raises teachers’ salaries by 18 percent but otherwise keeps the same contract as last year.

Initially, the district proposed a 15 percent raise with a contract that included work-rule changes teachers had asked for. In the end everything but the wages stayed the same.

The three-year contract also provides 3 percent raises the second and third years.

“This is a stretch contract for us, but we’re happy to have an agreement with our teachers that achieves our shared goal of establishing a competitive salary schedule,” said Superintendent Alicia Henderson in a press release.

Aberdeen Education Association President Michelle Reed said union members approved the contract “by a strong majority” at its meeting on Thursday.

Under the new contract, teachers’ annual salaries can range from $47,650 to $93,239, depending on how many years of service the teacher has and their level of education above a bachelor’s degree.

For a teacher with eight years of service and a master’s degree, they would get $64,436, plus $1,074 for three professional development days. The district reported that the average Aberdeen teacher’s salary will go up to $75,038 under the new contract, up from $61,697 last year.

The contract is for three years, and factors in a t 3 percent increase for each of the next two school years after 2018-19. According to the press release, there are 238 teachers and staff in the AEA.

When asked if she was satisfied with the final contract with the district, AEA President Michelle Reed said that union members were “willing to compromise in order to avoid a strike.”

“There’s enough anger at the district, by the members, their friends and families, and other organized labor groups, and we wanted to limit that,” said Reed in an email. “We were willing to give up what we knew was ours in order to avoid further animosity between the district and the (AEA). We hope the district values that willingness.”

In late July, the AEA proposed a 35 percent salary increase to the district, but Reed explained that that was just a starting number for negotiations, and not a final proposal.

With a new state funding model going into effect in 2019 due to the McCleary court decision, teachers unions all around Washington have pushed for significant teacher raises. According to data on the Washington Education Association website, districts around the state have secured pay raises that range mostly between 12 and 20 percent, but there are some that go high above, like a 30 percent raise for the North Beach Education Association.

Negotiations between the Aberdeen Education Association and the district went late into the night on Wednesday, running from 4 p.m. to 1:40 a.m. on Thursday morning when a tentative agreement was reached. One major shift from the previous proposals is that all of the additional benefits for teachers other than a salary increase have been eliminated, meaning it’s the same contract as last year’s other than the compensation.

In late August, the district agreed to add several other benefits requested by the AEA, like compensating for teachers each time they cover for a colleague during a free period in the day, paying special education specialists more for prior work experience outside education, and widening the criteria for bereavement leave. Instead, those benefits were removed from the contract, and simply raise the salary increase from 15 to 18 percent.

“Some of the earlier items in the contract proposal went away, and we just focused on our compensation,” said Henderson.

This also means that teachers will still have the same set workday hours as the previous year, meaning seven and a half hours for teachers in grades seven through 12, and seven hours and fifteen minutes for teachers in elementary levels.

Another slight change in the new contract is with professional development days. Teachers now only need to show up for three professional development days for things like new computer program learning or addressing the state’s technology standards, but will still get paid for three additional development days, which is factored into the teacher’s base salary.

Recent meetings between the two parties have been tense, and resulted in the district bringing in a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission for this week’s negotiations. On Aug. 21, the union and the district’s bargaining teams were supposed to meet in the Aberdeen School District offices, but neither side contacted the other, with both parties sitting in separate rooms for half an hour before the union members left without having a meeting.

Henderson said she’s pleased that district officials and teachers were able to reach an agreement and can now put focus back on the school year.

“I think it’s a very positive thing for our district to return our attention and focus to our job of educating our job,” said Henderson. “I say return because it has been a difficult journey through this.”