Washougal, WA — Nearly two weeks of a Washougal teachers strike came to end Thursday morning at Washougal High School as the Washington Association of Educators (WAE) voted 100% to approve the tentative agreement negotiators presented to them.
The two-year agreement gives Washougal teachers significant pay increases — 18% in year 1 (immediately) and 5% in year 2, and also boosts starting salaries to $51,434 in year 1. At the high end, veteran educators will receive a total compensation package of $96,944 in year 1 — excluding benefits. In year 2, the starting salary jumps to $53,005, and veteran salaries max out at $99,906. Funding comes from the new McCleary legislation that pumps $2 billion statewide, which is earmarked for teacher pay.
The compensation package consists of three areas: 1) Base pay; 2) Professional Development stipend, and 3) “Responsiblity” pay.
”We’re very pleased we came to an agreement,” said Eric Engebretson, WAE President. “We learned a lot about what the district faces, and we’re pleased to be able to provide this new package to our members. We all worked very hard on this.”
The often acrimonious bargaining sessions and tedious picketing tested energies and stamina on both sides. Wednesday evening both Engebretson and Dr. Mary Templeton, the Washougal School District Superintendent, appeared jointly in a video to report the tentative agreement.
“I am thrilled about the 100% ratification vote today,” said Templeton. “I think that signals strongly that we got it right. The contract has a lot of enhancement for salary, and that was our focus. That was our focus before we even started bargaining. We wanted to make sure we were regionally competitive, which was the common mission that both sides of the table had. We’re at a place where all of us feel very good about the contract and the salary enhancement. With regards to the budget, we always have to strike that balance between being regionally competitive around salary, but also making sure that you are fiscally sound over the course of one year, two years, three years, four years out. We’ve done that. We are so excited to say we are recruiting teachers at a starting salary of around $50,000. We are also able to value our teachers who have been with us for many years to say we can compensate you at around $96,000. In year 2, we get really close to $100,000.”
During the interview, Templeton also said the deal doesn’t put WSD into a deficit, but that they will have to watch the budget very closely as they are reducing reserves from 16% on hand to 9%, which is how they were able to make the agreement work. By statute, they are required to keep at least two months of operating revenue on hand at all times.
WSD operates on a $44 million annual budget.
And, she addressed rumors that the district had $12 million in reserves.
“That’s simply not true,” she said.
Templeton will tour schools on Friday to visit students and teachers, and plans to substitute in the classroom at a future date. This is her third month on the job as WSD Superintendent.