Issaquah School District could lose up to 51 teachers

April 28, 2011

NEW — 12:05 a.m. April 28, 2011

If the worst were to happen, Issaquah School District’s budget would take quite a hit for the next school year.

Although the Legislature has yet to finalize its biennial budget, the district is required, through its contract with the Issaquah Education Association teachers’ union, to alert teachers about impending layoffs by the last school board meeting in April.

At the board meeting Wednesday night, Jacob Kuper, finance and operations chief for the district, presented a worst-case-scenario, predicting the district would lose $2.7 million — a cut that would lead to the layoffs of 51 teachers, two maintenance-and-operations personnel, six custodians, 1.3 bus drivers, 1.15 educational assistants and 1.3 teachers on special assignment.

Of the 51 teachers, 15 plan to leave through normal attrition, meaning that 36 teachers will receive layoff notices.

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School district could lose more than $3 million from governor’s cuts

December 21, 2010

The Issaquah School District is slated to lose $3.17 million in the proposed budget Gov. Chris Gregoire released Dec. 15.

The 2011-13 proposed budget aims to address a $4.6 billion shortfall.

“This is on top more than $10 million in cuts from the last two budget cycles and a $1-million mid-year cut to our current budget from Saturday’s special session,” Issaquah Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said in a statement. “If I have said we were down to the bone before now, this starts cutting into the marrow of classroom operations.” Read more

Teachers’ union leader takes many memories with her into retirement

July 6, 2010

Neva Luke, who is retiring as Issaquah Education Association president, sits in her office with a picture of her and husband Pat Ciairelli, and a framed Rosie the Riveter World War II poster. By Greg Farrar

Neva Luke, 60, cleared the treasure trove of memories from her office at the Issaquah Education Association in the days leading up to her retirement from the Issaquah School District.

Photos of her travels to Versailles with her husband, Pat Ciairelli, the framed placard of Rosie the Riveter saying “We can do it!” and a card from her sister of Gilda Radner’s “Saturday Night Live” character Roseanne Roseannadanna, whining that “It’s always something,” — all are mementos of a life dedicated to helping children and advancing public education.

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Phyllis Runyon named new IEA president

July 6, 2010

Phyllis Runyon

Taking up the helm at the Issaquah Education Association is Phyllis Runyon, a speech and language pathologist with the Issaquah School District.

In coming years, Runyon will guide the teachers’ association through many challenges that will face them locally as education is reformed at the state and national levels, said former President Neva Luke, who retired June 30.

Runyon answered a few questions by e-mail about her new position.

What do you feel the association’s mission is?

Our mission is to work with the district to provide the best working conditions possible for educators, so they can focus on their job of providing an excellent education for the students of Issaquah.

Why is a strong association important?

Our community expects well-educated students. To provide this, we must attract and retain the highest quality of educators possible. The association is made up of about 1,000 members, and when they are able to do their jobs well, the whole community benefits.

How do you feel the association has changed in the last 10 years?

The focus of the association has broadened. Our jobs have always been political, but that has extended into education reform, ESEA (No Child Left Behind), and any number of political forces that affect our members — not to mention the economic woes that our state faces that affect our schools. Issaquah alone has experienced more than $10 million in cuts over the last two years.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing the association will face in the coming year? How do you plan to tackle it?

Educators have become the scapegoat for anything wrong with education in this country. I believe this is fallout from the effort to dismantle public education. The irony of this political attitude is that educators are the heart and soul of public education. They make it work. I want to remind those who want to change to a corporate model that our students are not a single product. They are individuals with individual needs and goals. We can’t help them reach their goals when we have to compete for funding and focus on test results rather than how to prepare our students to be responsible, productive citizens.

District officials, teachers rest easy with new contract approved

June 15, 2010

The Issaquah School Board unanimously approved a four-year teachers’ contract at its meeting June 9.

Teachers and district officials reached a tentative agreement June 1. The contract was approved by the Issaquah Education Association membership June 8.

There are several policy and language revisions to the contract this year, but there are no raises in teachers’ cost-of-living adjustments or to their direct salary next year, Director of Communications Sara Niegowski wrote in an e-mail.

However, all certificated employees, like teachers, therapists and nurses, have access to more money from the Professional Growth Incentive Fund and there are larger stipends available for employees who take on leadership roles.

Changes to the contract include:

  • Language changes including higher-level technology training for teachers.
  • All teachers by the third year of the contract must have an up-to-date online presence, like a website.
  • School calendars must be established three years in advance.
  • Additional well-defined individual, professional growth goals. Includes teachers and supervisors collaborating to create them and at least one goal tied to school, district or state learning goals.
  • Increases from $11,000 to $15,000 for elementary instructional leadership roles.
  • Stipend increases for therapists, pathologists and nurses who assume leadership roles to $3,000.
  • The Professional Growth Incentive Fund grows from $1,500 to $1,750.
  • The teacher’s current contract expires Aug. 31. The new contract expires Aug. 31, 2014.

In addition, district officials agreed to continue to fund the two professional improvement days the state has cut to keep all employees salary steady.

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Teachers, EAs reach tentative agreement

June 8, 2010

Issaquah School District and union officials have reached a tentative contract for teachers and educational assistants.

The tentative agreements were reached May 27 for educational assistants, and June 1 for teachers, according to a district press release.

“The association is very pleased that we have a tentative agreement to bring to our members,” Issaquah Education Association President Neva Luke said in an interview. “The bargaining teams of the district and the association made completing this important work a top priority and spent many, many hours working to achieve this settlement.”

Few details are known about the agreement, since it has yet to be ratified by the unions’ members and the school board.

Teachers were scheduled to meet June 8, after The Press’ deadline, to vote on the contract; the educational assistants will meet June 15.

If the contracts are approved, they will go to the school board for approval at an upcoming meeting. The next school board meetings are June 9 and 23.

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School district contract negotiations begin

April 13, 2010

Issaquah School District and union officials are rolling up their sleeves and coming to the bargaining table as four employee groups’ contracts expire this summer.

Contracts for teachers, bus drivers, secretaries and educational assistants expire Aug. 31.

Public employees in the state are required to join unions and bargain for wages, hours and conditions of employment.

District and union officials started meetings even as the final state budget and potential cuts to education are in flux. They are also taking a different approach to negotiations this year.

The Issaquah Education Association “has met with the district for three all-day sessions,” President Neva Luke wrote in an e-mail. “Both sides have worked very hard to get negotiations off to a good start.”

For instance, district and Issaquah Education Association officials — the teachers’ union — participated in interest-based bargaining training with officials from the Public Employment Relations Commission, according to the district’s Web site.

The training included negotiation methods that asked each side to bring interests to the table, rather than positions, and work toward collaborative solutions. The training also included brainstorming and consensus decision-making.

To help write the contract, teams come to a solution on an interest or issue they enter into a tentative agreement. The collection of tentative agreements makes up the final contract. However, the final contract must still be approved by the teachers’ membership and the Issaquah School Board before becoming official. Read more

School, library levies lead in election results

February 16, 2010

Dr. Steve Rasmussen, Issaquah School District superintendent, shares a high-five with Sara Niegowski, district executive director of communications, the moment after election night returns are posted showing a wide margin of passage for three levy issues. By Greg Farrar

Celebration was in the air as Issaquah School District officials gathered to welcome election results Feb. 9.

The celebration continued Feb. 12 with the results released at 3:25 p.m. showing district ballot measures leading with 65 percent for a maintenance and operations levy, 64 percent for a transportation levy and 65 percent for a technology and repairs levy.

Once the election is certified, taxpayers will pay $4.81 for every $1,000 of assessed property for the levies and the remainder of the 2006 bond.

Levy supporters gathered on election night to await early results. As the numbers appeared on the King County Elections Web site just after 8 p.m. Feb. 9, sighs of relief, high fives and victory cries erupted from partygoers.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen thanked voters for their support.

“This campaign was a community effort and took an army of volunteers stepping up because they know it is the right thing to do for our community,” he said. “Schools are the cornerstones for thriving and wonderful communities to live in. I think this bodes well for our community because they know the value and importance of education.”

The levy measures will supplement the district budget with more than $214 million by 2014. Read more

Issaquah school levies, King County library measure lead in latest election results

February 10, 2010

UPDATED — 3:17 p.m. Feb. 12, 2010

Celebration was in the air as Issaquah School District officials gathered to welcome election results Tuesday.

The celebration continued Thursday with the results released at 4:30 p.m. showing district ballot measures leading with 65 percent for a maintenance and operations levy, 63 percent for a transportation levy and 65 percent for a technology and repairs levy.

If the measures pass as expected, taxpayers would pay $4.81 for every $1,000 of assessed property for the levies and the remainder of the 2006 bond.

Levy supporters gathered Tuesday night to await early results. As the numbers appeared on the King County Elections Web site just after 8 p.m., sighs of relief, high fives and victory cries erupted from partygoers.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen thanked voters for their support.

“This campaign was a community effort and took an army of volunteers stepping up because they know it is the right thing to do for our community,” he said. “Schools are the cornerstones for thriving and wonderful communities to live in. I think this bodes well for our community because they know the value and importance of education.”

Read more

Education advocate loses battle with cancer

September 29, 2009

Kathy Linderman, a former educator and Issaquah Education Association president, died Sept. 26. Read more

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