The roar from the cafeteria at Battle Ground High School was deafening.
A total of 682 staff members working in Battle Ground Public Schools voted to strike Aug. 22 if their salary demands are not met by the first day of school, which is Wednesday.
“We had 693 people here. We were short about 200 from the district. That was a phenomenal turnout,” said Battle Ground Education President Linda Peterson. “When I ran for this position, I said I was going to inform, engage and empower my members. As a union, I feel like we have done that.”
BGEA Vice President and Battle Ground High School graduate Marina Heitz has taught in the district for 13 years.
“To see everyone in one room collectively for the same purpose and for the same reasons was an amazing feeling. I felt myself getting teary eyed,” Heitz said.
“I’ve lived through the levy failures and the bond failures as a student, and now I’m here as a teacher and I haven’t gone anywhere,” she added. “I’m dedicated. I love it here and I don’t want to go anywhere.”
According to BGPS Communications Manager Rita Sanders, the district offered its members an overall salary increase of 6.5 percent for the 2018-19 school year. The teachers are not satisfied with that offer. They believe more funds are available after the Washington State Legislature passed a bill in March to increase teacher salaries across the state.
One of the teachers made this clear by speaking to the crowd before the vote took place.
“If we don’t stand up, the district is going to walk all over us for years and years to come!” This statement received a roaring applause from the audience.
The Battle Ground School District made an updated offer after Sunday's bargaining session.
"We were hopeful that we could come to a mutual understanding about what funds are available to provide teachers with additional compensation," Superintendent Mark Ross stated in a release. "Unfortunately, BGEA refused to have this discussion with the mediator and the district."
The district's offer includes the 6.5 percent increase in total compensation that the district has already offered for 2018-19 and commits Battle Ground to additional salary increases of at least 2 percent for each of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
Hundreds of staff members and their families joined the picket line Monday.
“The community is behind us. We have parents here and we have kids here,” Peterson said. “How does the district expect to rebuild trust with the community if they don’t spend state allocated funds on salary? That’s all we’re asking for.”
Woodland Public Schools and its teachers have been one of the few successful districts to come to an agreement. On Aug. 17 the Woodland Education Association and the district ratified an addition to its current contract, giving teachers roughly 12.5 percent raises.
One day remains for Ridgefield teacher contract talks
There is only one day left of bargaining between the Ridgefield School District (RSD) and the Ridgefield Education Association (REA) and the teachers union has threatened to strike if demands are not met by the first day of school on Wednesday.
The REA and the RSD did not come to an agreement following about five hours of deliberation Aug. 24, leaving only Aug. 28 left for talks.
On Aug. 17 the REA announced that it would strike effective Aug. 29 if a new contract was not approved.
REA has taken issue with teacher pay raises, as has been the case in other districts discussing their contracts. The union also claims that the district was not doing anything to reduce class sizes, stating in their strike announcement that the district has one of the highest student-to-teacher ratios in the state.
The week prior to the scheduled strike date, RSD Superintendent Nathan McCann issued a letter to school district parents addressing the situation. The letter references a more than 15 percent pay raise offered by the district, a number that the REA feels is more around 12.8 percent.
Should the teachers follow through with a strike, the letter notes that information regarding the situation would be distributed through the district website, its Skyward system and through social media.
“We are positive about completing negotiations in a timely manner and beginning the student year on-time,” McCann’s letter read.
Hockinson votes to strike; no official word from La Center
With a strike looming, Hockinson Education Association members bargained with the district for hours Sunday and returned for another session on Monday, hoping to reach a settlement. Results were not available at press deadline.
“The bargaining team is frustrated at the lack of progress, but energized by your support,” HEA said in a statement, later adding that they “are determined to stay as long as the district is willing to stay.”
Despite multiple inquiries, there has been no official word on teacher contract negotiations with the La Center School District.
Katie Hayes / The Chronicle contributed to this article