YAKIMA, Wash. — After more than a year of negotiations that seemed to go nowhere, the Yakima teachers union and the school district have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for its 940 members.
The teachers will meet next week to vote on the new contract, which includes compromises to new teacher performance evaluations required by the state.
Both sides expressed relief that the laborious process may finally reach a conclusion — 15 months after talks started.
“It’s very good to have an agreement,” said Yakima Education Association (YEA) president Steve McKenna. “This is the longest process we’ve ever gone through to get to an agreement. I think hopefully both sides will benefit from what’s been put forth.”
Items to be included for teachers include additional compensation, reduced workloads for special education teachers and a memorandum of understanding on how the teacher evaluations will be dealt with. The evaluations were the main roadblock because of teacher concerns over linking evaluations to test scores. A summary of the details in the contract could not be obtained Friday.
In a telephone interview Friday, Superintendent Elaine Beraza said the teacher evaluations made negotiations much more difficult than in previous contracts. However, a general agreement on every other issue allowed bargaining efforts to focus on the evaluations, which ultimately paid off.
“I’m really pleased we did complete the contract, especially finishing the negotiations before the start of the school year,” Beraza said.
The process was not all optimistic, though. The YEA filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the district last winter for initiating the teacher evaluations on some teachers.
A mediator was brought in shortly after to facilitate the bargaining sessions. Teachers repeatedly spoke up about delays over a new contract at recent school board meetings. And while the topic of a work stoppage or strike was rarely discussed, YEA officials hinted it was a possibility if no deal was reached.
The members of the YEA will meet Tuesday at Eisenhower High School to vote yes or no on the proposed contract. Beraza said the school board will likely vote this month.