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District OKs pact despite union’s request

On the same night the South Kitsap School District examined a preliminary budget for the coming school year, representatives from the teachers union requested the board delay accepting an already-ratified contract between the two.

Despite requests from the South Kitsap Education Association to hold off on a decision until the Aug. 1 board meeting, the district approved the contract with the teachers.

The contract included changes passed by the Washington State Legislature that approved cost-of-living increases for teachers’ salaries. The contract also outlines a new late-start program.

Every Wednesday, students will arrive an hour later than usual, allowing teacher collaboration time.

South Kitsap Education Association President Julia Muñoz Bradford read a prepared statement explaining that the vote passed by the narrowest of margins — 190 in favor, 189 against.

“Some SKEA members believe that a challenge to the recent union vote to ratify the 2007-2010 collective bargaining agreement with the South Kitsap School Board should be considered,” Bradford said in a statement. “The contract ratification vote may not become final until all allegations are thoroughly investigated.”

One teacher, Tom Tampa from South Kitsap High School, claimed the June 21 vote was mishandled.

“They screwed up,” Tampa said. “I think the voting process was poorly handled. There was no true representation of one vote per member.”

Tampa said at the meeting, he witnessed some union members with more than one ballot. After the meeting, he said non-union members were present at the event and could have placed votes as well.

He said the election lacked accountability.

Bradford explained Thursday the vote was held in South Kitsap High School’s auditorium, and union members passed their ballots down the rows to be collected at the end of the aisles.

“I am confident in our members being ethical and honest with regard to the ballots,” Bradford said.

Despite these concerns, the district opted to approve the ratified contract, fearing that any delay could hinder the adoption of the late-start program.

The board explained the concern over the vote is an internal issue with SKEA, but not an issue for the South Kitsap School District.

Board member Kathryn Simpson, however, said the split vote sends a clear message to the board to continue to work and collaborate with teachers.

“We, as a district, do have an agenda,” she said. “Your organization, the teachers, have approved that contract, though by a thin margin. I was very intimidated when I saw that.”

Ultimately, the board decided to move forward with the contract and continue to talk with SKEA while it conducts an investigation to the complaints.

“At some point and time,” said School Board Vice President Chuck Mayhew, “you still need to move forward — even if you have things that need to get fixed.”

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