The Longview school district reached early contract agreements with two of its unions, a stark contrast to the heated negotiations in 2018 that led to a teachers’ strike.
The school board approved contracts with the Longview Education Association and the Longview Classified Public Employee Association at its Monday night meeting.
Both unions had already ratified the contracts, according to agenda documents, and the two-year contracts are effective Sept. 1 and run through Aug. 21, 2022.
District spokesman Rick Parrish said the negotiations this year were cordial and team-oriented. The district has just started negotiations with the Service Employees International Union, Parrish added.
“Our relationships with all our unions are strong. We’ve worked really well together through the school closure and the pandemic. The unions and the school district have really been partners in trying to support our kids and families during the most challenging times and that same spirit of cooperation and of partnership extended right through negotiations,” he said.
LEA President Ray Clift said the negotiations were “professional and businesslike,” but took a great deal of time and were challenging because of COVID-19 restrictions. Both negotiating teams were smaller than usual, he said, and some areas were tricky to negotiate due to the unknowns of the pandemic.
“LEA and the district agreed to a two-year contract which should provide some stability for both the district and educators who are already worried about possible budget cuts and all the unknowns surrounding the opening of schools in the fall,” Clift said.
A representative from LCPEA could not be reached Monday afternoon for comment.
The contracts include updated language and pay increases largely in line with state-mandated cost of living adjustments, Parrish said. For the 2020-21 school year, the state estimated a 1.6% adjustment for inflation, and a 1.9% adjustment in 2021-22.
Clift said numerous items in the contract needed to be updated due to recent legislative action, like the new state administration of healthcare programs for school employees and added paid family leave.
He said along with the cost of living increase, educators also got an additional day of professional development. Both of those changes will be paid for by increases in the state allocation to the district, according to Clift.
At the board meeting, Superintendent Dan Zorn said the new contract also created a $90,000 tuition reimbursement fund for employees getting state certification or master’s degrees.
The contract also added five more work days for school nurses and changed some language around cleaning supply availability and communication when a new student is added to a classroom, Zorn said.
In the LCPEA contract, Zorn said elementary assistant sectaries were also given a $2 per hour raise as they were among the lowest paid employees, but their professional development fund was cut from $20,000 to $10,000.
In addition, the contract limited compensation time to 60 hours from 100 hours and allowed personal leave carryover of two days, he said.
The unions and district last negotiated contracts in 2018, and disagreement over how additional state funding from the McCleary decision was earmarked led to an eight-day delay of the start of the school year. Teachers asked for a raise that the district said its budget could not sustain, according to earlier TDN reporting.
In the end, the LEA and the district agreed to a 9% salary boost in 2018-19. Originally, the district was offering a 6.9% raise while the teachers wanted 11%. The LCPEA and the district agreed to a 6.75% raise in 2018-19.
Parrish said the 2012 McCleary decision was not a big point of discussion in this year’s negotiations.
“I think our focus after the previous negotiations was to bring the district back together and mend relationships and work together as a team for the benefit of the kids in a really positive way,” Parrish said. “That’s what we’ve seen during the negotiations (this year).”
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.