Peninsula schools classified employees advocating for increased pay as negotiations near

Paraeducators and others crowd into the Peninsula School Board meeting Thursday, Nov. 8, to advocate for wage increases.
Paraeducators and others crowd into the Peninsula School Board meeting Thursday, Nov. 8, to advocate for wage increases. Contributing writer

Close to 250 members of the union representing many classified employees of the Peninsula School District attended the Nov. 8 school board meeting to advocate for higher pay.

The clerical unit of the Public School Employees of Peninsula is beginning contract negotiations and is seeking its share of money earmarked for school-employee pay by the state Legislature as part of the so-called McCleary fix.

“We want to negotiate with the district to get that money so we can earn a livable wage,” said Bunky Janovich, president of the clerical unit. “We want them to know what we do is important. We want some respect for what we do, and we want it reflected in our check.”

Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis said this is the very beginning of the bargaining process. Talks have yet to be scheduled.

“They will have a proposal to put on the table, and we will too,” Jarvis said. “Then we will start true negotiations.”

In 2012, a state Supreme Court order known as the McCleary decision said the state wasn’t doing enough to fund basic education, including paying teachers’ salaries. Since then, the Legislature has approved billions in additional funding to school districts. Earlier this year, lawmakers directed another $1 billion to help speed up the costs of fully covering teacher pay.

Members of the clerical unit work in transportation and as clerical staff, mechanics, custodians and maintenance technicians.

At the Nov. 8 meeting, about 15 union members addressed the board. They told stories about knowing students’ schedules better than parents, being hit or kicked by students and working extra time. They said they love what they do but cannot continue to do it without a livable wage.

Janovich told the Gateway the union believes there is a 12.1 percent gap between what its members are being paid now and what they deserve.

Jarvis said since the state did not allocate the McCleary funds for any certain thing, it makes the situation complex.

Peninsula school district teachers already have negotiated with the board and received pay increases, averaging about 16 percent, across all education and experience levels.

Janovich said union will continue to arrive at every school board meeting in full force if the school board does not meet with their state representative, or if the negotiations are not agreed upon.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 13.