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Union reaches agreement with school district

PSE workers get 6 percent raise

 


The local chapter of the Public School Employees union voted 28-8 to ratify a 6-percent raise in the Grand Coulee Dam School District late last month and the school board approved the change last Thursday.

After months of deliberations, the PSE Nov. 27 approved the raise for the roughly 75 members, plus a $2-an-hour raise for the lead mechanic position and a 50-cents-an-hour raise to the Spanish paraprofessional position. The lead paraprofessional in the preschool was made a “coordinator,” which comes with a raise of about $1.15 an hour, as well.

“But it’s a savings because we’re not paying a certified teacher,” Superintendent Paul Turner told the school board Thursday at a special meeting at The Melody Restaurant. The same applies to the preschool lead parapro position because the district did not replace a certificated teacher who moved earlier this year, Turner said.

The special meeting was convened at the Melody as a joint meeting with the Nespelem School District board.

“It was a very difficult negotiation process, and I am proud of the negotiation team for standing their ground,” Jess Utz, president of the local PSE chapter, told The Star last week. “We will continue to wear our PSE blue on every Monday as a symbol of … solidarity. Next, we will will be looking into our current working conditions and negotiate again next year. I also would like to thank the community for their overwhelming support during these stressful times. We are here because of the kids.”

Turner told his board the package of increases will cost the district an extra $111,126, including $106,000 for the across-the-board raise.

“It’s more than I was wanting to go, but we got a resolution and we can move on,” Turner said.

The increases are retroactive to the beginning of August.

Director Rich Black asked if Turner thought PSE members still bore some “angst” after the difficult negotiations.

“I still think there was a little angst in the sense that they felt the teachers got a 15-percent raise, [so] why can’t they,” Turner said, noting that the state has provided more money for teachers, not classified staff. “Even at this, we’re going to have to tighten the strings up a little bit.”

Turner said legislators had told him over the previous weekend that the state Legislature is working on more funding, but he acknowledged to the board that layoffs could be a future possibility.

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