Dear Parents and Community,
The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Seattle Education Association (SEA) started negotiations May 20, 2015, to achieve a new collective bargaining contract. SEA represents educators, substitutes, paraprofessionals, instructional assistants and office professionals. The current contract with SEA expires August 31, 2015, The educators and staff in our schools are crucial to student success. Because of the importance of our teachers and instructional staff and the importance of this agreement to our students, I want to keep you updated on proposals and our progress.
Equity and the Achievement Gap
While graduation rates continue to improve across the district, achievement gaps persist for many students; particularly African American males and other students of color. Discipline rates for students of color continue to be disproportionate. The contract negotiation with the SEA provides an opportunity to address some of the areas which pose challenges for our students. We know SEA shares our commitment in this important work.
The School Day
An upcoming state mandate will require all high school students to graduate with 24 credits. Under our current system, should a student fail one class during their high school career, he or she would not graduate. Another state mandate requires more instructional time – 1027 hours (average K-12). This affects student learning time, professional development time for teachers and time for lunch and recess. We are working with SEA to address these mandates and make the best use of our instructional time for students.
Special Education (SPED)
SPS has been working hard to address areas for improvement previously identified by parents, state and federal agencies in services for our students with special education needs. Recently, the district has completed all the requirements in our Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan, also known as C-CAP. We are now responsible for improving our service to schools and students in the next phase of our compliance work. We still have significant work to do, and will be looking to collaborate with our SEA partners on contract issues to ensure resources spent yield the outcomes students need. I am optimistic about this work, and I know this is also an important issue for SEA.
Student Growth Rating
Given the recent concerns about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment, SEA is concerned about the student growth rating in teacher evaluations. Currently, the student growth rating is used as only one of several measures of student learning to prompt conversations between teachers and supervisors about professional development that will best support the teacher with meeting the needs of students. Teachers are not evaluated on student test scores. The current system has been in place since 2010.
The Legislature has provided 3 percent in salary improvements for the coming year. During the recession, teachers relied primarily on local districts to provide cost of living increases while the state was unable to do so. Under the State Supreme Court decision, salaries are ultimately to become part of the state’s responsibility for schools. For now, teachers continue to look to the district to ensure that they are paid adequately for the cost of living in Seattle and the increased mandates from the state.
Conversations are progressing well. SEA has scheduled a membership meeting for Monday, August 24 to vote on a tentative agreement. I look forward to providing you update of our progress and will post updates as appropriate on the district web site.
Dr. Larry Nyland