School in Pasco will start Sept. 1.
The school calendar is usually negotiated between the district and the Pasco Association of Educators, but an impasse between the two led the school board to take the decision into its own hands and declare it a “business necessity.”
The board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to set the date.
The calendar is usually set before school gets out, but the union asked that it be part of the current labor contract bargaining. The district last week requested help from a state mediator because negotiations between the two sides are at a stalemate.
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The current contract expires Aug. 31. Teachers have a union meeting scheduled Aug. 12 and are considering their first strike since 1978. The union represents more than 1,000 people.
The district says teachers are asking for an 11 percent pay increase, while teachers say much of the $15 million in new money they are looking for over the next year is for improved curriculum.
Around 100 people packed the board room Tuesday. Many were teachers wearing red “We teach Pasco” T-shirts. A few spoke to the board.
Bilingual teacher Margarita Morfin blasted the district’s Literacy Squared bilingual program.
“This is not a curriculum,” she said. “Teachers have to go find books in English and translate them to Spanish. From day to day, we’re struggling.”
The district is not ensuring that every student will have access to a teacher who is an expert in a field, said Matthew Polk, a teacher in the district who also has a sixth-grade son.
“We deserve better,” he told the board. “I’m deeply disappointed in your failure to do so so far.”
Resolving the issues will take teamwork, board member Steve Christensen said.
“I don’t think there’s anything that anyone would want more than outstanding schools with all the curriculum, the pencils, the pencil sharpeners,” he said. “But there are limits to what we can do.”