The Northshore Education Association (NSEA), which represents teachers, nurses and paraeducators in the Northshore School District (NSD), passed a motion to prepare for a strike on June 8 at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore.
The second of two motions passed with “overwhelming support” according to Washington Education Association officials, essentially acting as an official threat against the district.
The motion was put forth by NSEA president Tim Brittell, and sets a deadline of Aug. 31 for action by the district.
“We do not want a strike,” Brittell said in a statement. “We need contracts that improve our work, schools, and the quality of education for our students. This motion is to prepare for a strike. It is not a motion to go on strike. That decision, if we must make it, will be at the end of the summer after we have returned to the bargaining table in August.”
The list of bargaining goals stretches further than compensation. The NSEA is requesting better safety in schools, appropriate staffing levels and adequate support from the district — including qualified substitutes when needed.
The largest item in the list of goals did request “compensation that reflects our education, responsibilities and the complexity of our work so that we can choose to live in our community, pay off our student loans, fairly contribute to our families’ budget and attract and retain the best educators for our students.”
The first motion, which also passed by a wide margin, is a vote of no confidence in Jeff Sherwood, executive director of human resources for the district. Sherwood, according to the NSEA motion, has attempted to divide the Certified staff, including teachers, and the Education Support Professionals (ESP).
A study commissioned by the state legislature found NSD support staff — ESP — are underpaid by around $6-per-hour when compared to similar positions in King County. ESP and Certified voted to merge in February 2016 and form the NSEA, in order to strengthen their bargaining power.
According to an NSEA timeline, Sherwood either rejected requests for joint bargaining or sought to exclude ESP during bargaining on four occasions. Districts in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Mercer Island, Tukwila and Federal Way bargain jointly, the NSEA motion said.
“Sherwood’s refusal to agree to joint bargaining is an attempt to divide educators who value each other and whose unity at our schools serves our students well,” the NSEA statement read. “It is deeply offensive to us and should not be acceptable to anyone who understands the work we do together every day at school. We have no confidence in his leadership in Northshore. We will not be divided.”
In statement released by the district on Thursday, June 9, NSD refuted the pay gap for support staff.
“NSD regularly surveys employee salaries in comparable and neighboring districts for all employee groups to assure that compensation remains competitive,” the statement read. “NSD is committed to, and has a demonstrated track record, of making adjustments to remain competitive.”
The statement also said the district is open to join bargaining “if there are mutual benefits and a commitment to a more positive culture for solving problems.”
According to the statement, the NSEA has failed to provide reasons to the district as to why joint bargaining will simplify the process.
The statement also responded to the vote of no confidence in Sherwood, not mentioning Sherwood by name, but calling him “an experienced, competent and skilled Human Resources professional” as a leader in the negotiations.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect ESP’s presence at additional bargaining talks.