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SCHOOLS | Will South Kitsap Education Association vote to strike?

South Kitsap Education Association past president Judy Arbogast said in an Aug. 19 email that the organization is preparing for the “next steps” at their next meeting because there is no contract in sight.

SKEA members, who voted in the spring to take action on the bargaining team’s recommendation, will meet Monday, Aug. 26, to vote on the outcome of contract negotiations by ratifying the new contract or considering a “strike” vote by its membership.

Arbogast said the “big sticking issue” is class sizes because the South Kitsap School District eliminated 61.3 positions in the spring.

“An additional 47 teachers have retired or resigned, while many who were laid off have been called back,” Arbogast said. “There will be far fewer teachers in the district compared to last year, resulting in higher class sizes.”

She said the school district is scheduled to begin with several secondary classes slated to have 40 students and that “SKEA members are highly concerned as this is an unsafe learning environment for students and academically unacceptable.”

“Another class size sticking point is split classes at the elementary school level,” she said. “With new state standards just around the corner, it will be nearly impossible to continue the practice of having split classes (placing two different grade levels in one classroom.)”

But Superintendent Michelle Reid said she hopeful that SKSD and the union will reach an agreement before the first day of school on Sept. 4.

“The school district and SKEA continue to bargain in good faith,” Reid said Wednesday. “The community is counting on both sides on reaching an agreement before school starts.”

In June, SKEA sent out a press release announcing a vote of no confidence in SKSD chief financial officer Sandy Rotella. In the letter, Arbogast stated the teachers union is concerned about teacher layoffs and class sizes.

Arbogast reported 88.9 percent of the total membership voted with 92.6 percent voting no confidence for Rotella.

The current SKEA contract expires on Aug 31.

SKSD’s school board met Wednesday in the South Kitsap High School’s Performing Arts Center after press time.

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