BENTON CITY -- The head of the Kiona-Benton City School District and a representative of the state teachers' union have different perspectives on discussions about teacher grievances and other issues.
Superintendent Rom Castilleja said Friday that he was hopeful that the meetings would yield a resolution to the grievances as well as straighten out details over contract language.
Steve Lindholm of the southeast chapter of the Washington Education Association, isn't as optimistic.
"As of right now, the district hasn't really been open to addressing any of our issues," Lindholm said.
The two parties met Monday and Tuesday in a continuing effort to reach a mutual resolution instead of taking the entire issue through the courts. Lindholm said the WEA is preparing for that course of action given the lack of progress in meetings.
Castilleja, on hearing of Lindholm's assessment of the meetings, said he stood by his comments that progress was being made.
"Well that's good to know," Castilleja said of Lindholm's perspective.
The WEA and Kiona-Benton City Education Association want the district to address about a dozen grievances filed in the past year. Castilleja has told the Herald he is working on only four grievances.
Those grievances regard the termination of two former Ki-Be teachers and the disciplining of another, according to documents provided to the Herald in a documents request.
Union officials contend those actions were taken in retribution against the employees either for going to the union for help on labor issues or cooperating in other labor complaints. The district denied those accusations.
A recent grievance includes the case of two substitute teachers barred about a month ago from working in the district.
Administrators have declined to discuss the case. The teachers haven't been named but are described as longtime educators with a history of employment with the district.
Union officials said the dismissals reportedly stemmed from an incident during which one of the substitutes sought the help of the other in controlling an unruly eighth-grade class March 13. At least two students were referred to school administrators, and their parents were contacted.
Castilleja said he couldn't discuss specifics of the talks because they concern personnel matters, but he and Lindholm have shared proposals and that they are slated to meet again Wednesday.
"We've left it pretty open-ended," he said.
Lindholm said he has offered to set aside some of the grievances against the district and downplay the arbitration of others in the spirit of reaching a resolution, but he's not seen similar good faith from Castilleja or anyone else in the district.
"I have no real hope that the superintendent has any real interest in resolving this," Lindholm said.
The district and union are under some pressure. The grievances are expected to go back to arbitration if a resolution is not reached by July 25. Both sides have acknowledged the potential financial burden of taking the issue to the courts.