Tag Archive for: Camas Schools

Labor Day weekend is upon us and that usually means it’s time for the kids to go back to school. But if you’ve been paying attention you might have heard that many local SW Washington school district teachers are on strike and school may not start at its scheduled time. What’s going on? Why are there all these strikes? As the parent of a Camas middle-schooler I had the same questions and have recently done a little research on the issue. So read on if you want some more information.

The issue goes back to the McCleary lawsuit against the State of Washington which charged that the state failed to adequately fund basic education in violation of a Constitutional mandate. The problem arose over the years with many districts increasingly relying on local levies to increase funding for education, resulting in inequality across districts. The state Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that basic education must be fully funded by state money, not local money. The legislature’s fix to the problem was to provide an additional $2 billion in funding for basic education distributed across the state’s 295 school districts and to place a cap on local levies, which can now only be used for enhancement and not basic education (eg, teacher salaries).

A few school districts that did not have levies and had low levels of local property tax funding for schools have received large increases in funding under the McCleary legislation. As a result teachers in a few of these underfunded districts have already negotiated large salary increases, in some cases up to 20%. However, many other districts don’t fare as well under the new McCleary funding model. Particularly hard hit are districts that have historically relied on larger local levy funds.

The local Camas community highly values education and through its strong support for local levies the Camas School District (CSD) has been able to develop a great school system. In fact, the schools are what have brought many people and businesses to Camas. The most recent levies were four-year levies passed in 2017 to support maintenance/operations and technology and these provide a number of benefits to students. Levy funds of about $17 million make up about 20% of CSD’s overall annual budget. http://www.camas.wednet.edu/about-csd/budget-funding/levies/

Unfortunately, the impact of the McCleary legislation will substantially reduce CSD’s levy funds. CSD will receive a nominal increase in funding from the state starting in 2018-19, which levels off and there will be an overall decrease in funding for the 2019-20 school year as levy funding continues to decline (see table). Adding to the chaos is that the state provided little guidance to local districts, essentially leaving them on their own to figure out how to handle the drastically changed funding system.


The state teacher’s union (Washington Education Association) saw the lack of state guidance and the new statewide funding plan as an opportunity to attempt to negotiate large salary increases on behalf of their members. The WEA held up as examples of what was possible districts that were able to provide 20+% salary increases due to the large windfall those districts received under McCleary. The local teacher’s union, led by Mark Gardner, appears to be pushing for double-digit salary increases, but has not publicly provided information about their requested increase. During the negotiations the district initially offered a 3.1% increase, raised it to 4%, and finally offered teachers a 5.7% increase in 2018-19 followed by another 2.3% increase in 2019-20. The teacher’s union rejected all of these offers and voted to strike. The district then requested mediation and here we are with less than a week before school starts wondering if the kids will be going back to school.

Camas has wonderful school teachers and even though they are among the highest paid in the state I would gladly do my part to help pay them more (we voted for the bond and levies and do what we can to help our school), but unfortunately the issue is not as simple as the slogan “support the teachers.” There are difficult funding and budgetary realities that we must contend with, especially in light of the future major loss of levy funding. The district administrators are mandated by law to sustainably fund the schools and, unfortunately for Camas, the McCleary legislation has not been kind to our district. Large double-digit salary increases could potentially bankrupt the district or require future teacher layoffs or staff cuts as well as cuts to other services, including: special education, library, health, and extracurricular activities; all things that help make our district great.

Everyone in the Camas school district is dedicated to helping our kids learn and it’s disheartening to see this come down to a strike and the acrimony it is creating in our district. I support the teachers, but I also support our dedicated administrators who I believe truly have our district’s interests at heart as they try to responsibly manage our district’s limited funds. Hopefully they can reach a suitable agreement and all the kids can return to school and continue learning. In the meantime, please call your local state legislator, tell them about the problem they have created in our school district, and ask them to fix the McCleary mess they have created.

By Ken O’Day, a Camas parent

Camas, WA — The Camas School District (CSD) has issued a formal response to the Camas Education Association’s (CEA) vote to strike beginning on the first day of school, September 4, pending a salary agreement. With the help of a mediator, negotiations between CSD and CEA will continue this week.

According to CSD administration, updates about the labor negotiations progress will be emailed to families, posted on district social media (Facebook and Twitter), and included on the CSD Labor Relations webpage (http://bit.ly/CamasLabor). Answers to many questions may be found on the Questions & Answers webpage (http://bit.ly/CamasQA).

Official CSD Strike Statement

While our district offered teachers the option to continue working under the current contract, CEA has stated that unless an amended agreement is reached, teachers will not return to the classroom. What this means for you and your student during a work stoppage is:

  • If an agreement is not reached 24 hours before the start of school on September 4, we will notify you that school will not open as scheduled.
  • Each day after that, we will continue to give you updates until an agreement is reached and school is scheduled to reopen (at least a 24-hour notice will be given before we reopen school).
  • All scheduled events and activities (such as open houses, class schedule pick-up, orientations, etc.) scheduled before September 3 will still happen.

During the work stoppage, school buildings will be staffed with essential, non-striking personnel but will not be open to students, families, or the general public. The district administrative offices will be open.

Since athletic coaches are covered under a separate contract, high school and middle school athletics will continue with scheduled practices and games/matches/meets as much as possible.

There will be no district childcare.

Students will still be required to complete the state-mandated requirement of attending school for 180 days. Any days missed at the beginning of the year will be made up – much like snow days. A new calendar will be provided after school resumes.

Questions and Answers

We asked Doreen McKercher, CSD Communications Director, several questions:

What does the district do when the CEA announces a strike? What’s your process?

We have a strike plan in place that covers things like communications, logistics, and planning for next steps. We’ll be communicating with families.

Is this strike even legal? Citing RCW 41.56.120: “Right to strike not granted. Nothing contained in this chapter shall permit or grant any public employee the right to strike or refuse to perform his or her official duties.” The Attorney General’s Office said: “In Washington, state and local public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike. No such right existed at common law, and none has been granted by statute.” What is CSD’s opinion on this?

In Washington, strikes by public employees, including teachers, are illegal. This is recognized in decisions made by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) and Washington courts. Despite clarity in the law, there are no real repercussions for breaking this law.

How long does a strike have to go on until it starts affecting this year’s school schedule? We understand it’s like using up snow days.

Yes, the plan is to use inclement weather makeup days initially. Should the strike last for an extended period of time, we’d look at scheduled breaks and possibly Saturdays.

If a strike goes past 15 days, then classified staff won’t get paid, but will the teachers also not get paid?

It is my understanding that if the strike continues past the 15th of September, none of the 9- and 10-month staff will be paid, but I still need confirmation on that. We want to make sure we’re following the rules, so we don’t have a definitive answer on that.

Will back to school nights even happen?

Yes, all in-service training, meetings, and the back-to-school events occurring this week will continue as planned.

This information about the Student Wellness Series is provided by the Camas School District.

The public is invited to attend THE STUDENT WELLNESS SERIES: TEENS & THEIR SCREENS – MARCH 26.

Please join us for a free parent education night with Yshai Boussi of Portland Family Counseling talk about how electronics are affecting student brains. He has become the areas’s go-to counselor on navigating the challenges of teens and devices.

The event – which is geared toward an adult audience – is coming up Monday, March 26, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at Hayes Freedom High School. We welcome parents and guardians of students of every age to join us for this valuable information. There is no admission fee.


Up Next:

On Tuesday, April 10, from 6:30-8:00 pm in the CHS Theatre, Licensed Professional Counselor Howard Hiton will be speaking on “Competition and High Expectations: Supporting Your Children to be Independent and Resilient.”

We thank Camas Educational Foundation for the grant that helped make these opportunities possible in conjunction with the newly founded Student Wellness Program of Camas School District. Stay tuned for even more events!


Contact [email protected] with questions or for more information.

For more on the Student Wellness Program, see Camas-Washougal Post-Record’s March 3 article here: http://www.camaspostrecord.com/news/2018/mar/01/camas-schools-prioritize-wellness/

Camas, WA — With significant Camas Track and Field leadership changes this season, it created openings for new coaches, and an opportunity for three Camas graduates to return to the very track on which they once competed.

The timing was perfect for Seanna Pitassi (class of 2010), Michelle Pilette (class of 2010) and Grayson Anderson (class of 2013) to be among the younger generation of Papermaker athletes.

”They approached me to come back, and I had to wait on a few things to make a decision,” said Anderson, who competed in the High Jump (2nd in State), 100, 200, and 4×400 Relay as a Papermaker. “Three weeks later, the timing worked and here I am coaching High Jump. I’m really surprised by the maturity of the athletes here at Camas. We treat them like young adults.”

He said the size of his High Jump team is perfect.

”We have 12,” he said. “It’s enough to contribute to the team effort, and it’s not too much where I can’t have a good relationship with each athlete. It’s just like a classroom.”

Anderson is working to wrap up his Construction Management/Architecture degree from WSU Pullman, and is also a highly successful YouTube Channel owner.


The team has been practicing for three weeks in preparation for the 2018 season.

Papermaker Maddie Peffers enjoys Anderson’s coaching, and is trying to hit 5’ 8” in the High Jump this season.

”I’ve been doing this since sixth grade,” Peffers said. “And I love how peaceful this sport is.”

Pitassi ran track at CWU for years while getting her Teaching degree. She’s taught at Heritage High School in Vancouver, and just recently switched over to teach at Liberty Middle School, in Camas.

”I’m here because of Alisa Wise (former Girls Head Coach),” said Pitassi. “She told me ‘you’ve got to take this job’ and so we made it work. I’m so excited to be here. I knew Camas is a great program. We’re looking forward to the competition.”


Coach Pitassi at practice — with Sebastian Harb photo bombing.

Pitassi speaks fondly of her years running as a Papermaker, and she loved competing at Oregon Relays.

“I can’t wait to get back to the Oregon Relays,” she said. “It’s weird that it’s not that weird to be back. I just feel so passionate about this.”

Pitassi ran the 400 and competed in three relays events as a Papermaker, and she was part of the team that placed second at State in 2010.

”We love it when they come back,” said brand-new Track and Field Head Coach, Jon Eagle. “I like their passion and expertise. We like their youth because the Camas coaches aren’t getting any younger. Our team this season is young, we have great members, emerging talents, and we have two State champions in the mix — Daniel Mason and Maddie Peffers.”


2010 Camas graduate, Michelle Pilette, now coaches jumps at CHS.

Pilette, who wasn’t available for alumni pictures, ran relays as a Papermaker, and is coaching the long jump and triple jump events this season. She works at Camas High School.

When we caught up with her another time, she was getting her jump teams ready for their first competition — which is today at Cardon Field. She, too, is happy to be back.

To learn more, visit www.chs.camas.wednet.edu

Photo Gallery

According to the Clark County Elections Office, Camas School District No. 117, Proposition No. 1, Bonds to Improve Safety, and Construct and Renovate School Facilities has passed with 61.07% of the vote, a super majority, with 38.93% voting against the bond measure. A total of 5,983 votes have been cast so far, with 3,654 votes in favor of the measure.

Local residents have been campaigning hard for the $120 million levy, which keeps essential operations running for several years, and also allots funds to build an annex to the existing Camas High School. Camas has managed its funds well over the years, and voters are showing their approval with the votes. These types of measures require a supermajority, or 60 percent of votes cast.

“It’s a hard threshold to meet sometimes,” said Camas School District Superintendent, Mike Nerland.

Other local districts are experiencing similar special election results. These other districts have earmarked their funds differently than Camas.

  • Green Mountain School District passed with 56%.
  • Hockinson School District passed with 53%.
  • La Center School District passed with 56%.
  • Ridgefield School District passed with 63%.
  • Vancouver School District passed with 70%.

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These results are from the Clark County Elections Office, but are considered unofficial until all votes are turned in, and official tallies are certified. It takes day for all votes to be counted, and certified.