In the wake of uncertainty over what to do with new money from the state, Coupeville and Oak Harbor school districts have both reached agreements that will result in double digit percentage increases in teacher salaries.
The Coupeville school board voted Monday night to increase teacher salaries by an average of 22 percent, with starting pay set a $53,444.
The contract also reduced the years of experience needed to reach the top of the pay scale, which is $105,522, to 14 years.
“Members are extremely happy with this agreement,” said Katja Willeford, teacher and co-president of Coupeville Education Association.
Willeford said that negotiations hadn’t been as collaborative at the beginning, but she said once the new superintendent stepped in, the gears started turning.
Teachers came to a school board meeting at the end of July to advocate for more support and ask if they were considered “worth a bump above” baseline.
Superintendent Steve King said he is proud of the “competitive compensation” the district can provide.
“I look forward to the continued positive work with our employees and I am thankful for our community’s continued support of our schools,” King said.
Oak Harbor School District also came to an agreement Monday night. Teachers there will see a 19.8 percent increase during the 2018-19 school year and a total 23.6 percent over three years.
Bargaining sessions in the city also had a rocky start, with some union members considering striking on the first day of school.
Oak Harbor Education Association President Kathy Ridle said the reaction to the agreement reached was “very positive.”
“They were all enthusiastic about all or most of the contract,” she said.
Lead union bargainer Jeff Laiblin said there were also several changes approved to improve staff working conditions. For instance, the case load for special education teachers is now capped and physical education class sizes were reduced because of safety concerns.
“We had a lot to tackle,” Laiblin said.
Superintendent Lance Gibbon said he’s pleased the increased state funding allowed for “long-overdue salary improvements.”
With the new funding, Gibbon said, the school levy rates in Oak Harbor will drop by about $1 per $1,000 of assessed value because of a levy cap that starts in 2019.
Gibbon said the district’s total budget will stay the same with tax revenue from other districts making up the difference.
“That means we’ll be able to continue to provide fair compensation for our employees while maintaining our state and national award-winning schools and programs,” he said.