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Kennewick school employees settle pay dispute

Kennewick paraeducators and supporters rally Tuesday near the school district office.
Kennewick paraeducators and supporters rally Tuesday near the school district office. Tri-City Herald

Kennewick School District reached a tentative contract agreement Friday evening with its paraeducators who were headed toward a strike vote next week.

Instead, the school employees plan to vote on ratifying the terms of a new contract on Thursday.

“We have urged Kennewick School District to negotiate livable wages for over 600 members in our chapter, and we are glad that they heard our voices and decided to come back to the table,” Brandy Strait, paraeducator at Canyon View Elementary said in a news release.

She is co-president of the paraeducators/cashiers chapter of Public School Employees of Washington SEIU Local 1948.

The chapter, which also represents licensed practical nurses, held rallies and pickets throughout the week and was planning a strike vote after months of contract negotiations had failed to reach an agreement.

But negotiations with school district officials resumed Friday and both issued releases to the media later in the evening.

“The district would like to thank the members from both bargaining teams for all of their hard work to reach this tentative agreement,” said a district release from Robyn Chastain, executive director of communications and public relations.

The details of the contract proposal were not released Friday.

“We will present the tentative agreement to our membership and decide next steps pending the outcome of the ratification vote,” said Strait.

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Paraeducators, who work with vulnerable special needs and behaviorally-challenged students, are required to hold an AA degree or pass an equivalency test to be hired, a union news release said.

Entry-level paraeducators currently make under $14 an hour in Kennewick and are paid for under 200 days per year, it said.

A strike vote could take place if members reject the tentative agreement Thursday.

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