Yelm Community Schools Strikes Three-Year Deal With Union


Yelm Community Schools and the Yelm Education Association agreed upon a three-year collective bargaining agreement this fall, with a 97 percent ratification.

Brian Wharton, superintendent of Yelm Community Schools, said the contract did not include any big changes from previous agreements, but there was ample work done to clean up language and make the agreement easier to read.

“We spent a lot of time talking about what strategies (to use) when we have substitute shortages,” Wharton said, as he listed off a couple of considerations in the agreement. “We talked about how to make best use of our late-start Wednesday time. Those are just typical things that we continue to nuance to try to have the best product that we can.”

Overall, the bargaining process went smoothly, he said.

“There was no big issue that we really had to work hard on, in terms that we didn’t agree,” Wharton said. “There was strong collaboration. We felt that it was a really positive, professional bargain. ... We felt really good that our teams were able to move through it as well as they did.”

He said the financial conditions for the three-year deal were modest, though the district feels teacher pay was kept to be competitive with surrounding districts that are bigger, which will help with the retention and recruitment of staff.

For the 2021-22 school year, pay ranges from $50,927 to $68,273 for teachers in their first year depending on their education level, and $53,599 to $97,829 for teachers with 25 or more years of experience.

That marks a $4,501 increase for first year teachers with the lowest level of education needed for the job and a $5,741 increase to those with the highest level of education. For teachers with 25 years or more of experience, they will see an increase of $4,737 at the lowest level of education needed for the job, and an $8,225 increase for those with the highest level of education.

For the 2022-23 school year the range will be $53,474 to $71,686 for first-year teachers and $56,279 to $102,271 for those with 25 or more years of experience. In the 2023-24 school year, those ranges will increase to $55,613 to $74,554 at the bottom of the range and $58,530 to $106,830 at the top of the range.

Employees will receive 1/180 of their salary for each extra day they work past the 180 contact days.

Department heads will receive $400 in extra pay, which will be allocated in June of 2022.

Staff that take on supervision duties for activities like field trips, music programs or sporting events will be paid $30 an hour, or prorated for 15-minute increments.

Certificated employees will work 52.5 hours of professional days, or seven days total, and can submit their time in half day increments at 3.75 hours or full days at 7.5 hours.

They are also eligible for three enrichment days, or 22.5 hours, on a supplemental contract to be paid out in 12 equal installments. The days are employee-directed to enrich student learning. Qualifying initiatives include mentoring hours and collaboration time with other teachers for the purpose of increased student learning.

Additionally, certificated employees are eligible for two days, or 15 hours, of learning recovery activities like working with students to complete their learning recovery plans, funded by money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

The district will also offer 30 hours of professional development to certificated employees, with 10 additional hours offered for specialists and special education employees.

According to the agreement, secondary core classes should have a maximum of 28 students per class, with teachers getting $12 per day per student for class-size overages. Secondary elective classes are set to 29 students, while elementary classes see a range of 23 to 28 students.

The district is also offering leave for teachers completing the adoption process as well as maternity leave, paternity leave, and sick leave, as well as paid family and medical leave.

Also, the district is offering bereavement leave, jury duty and subpoena leave, military leave as required by statute and personal leave with a cash-out option.

There will also be options for job-sharing, a leave-share program and additional unpaid leave.

Ultimately, Wharton said he is pleased with the result of the agreement.

“I love the stability of a three-year deal, because what we went through last year, what we’re going through this year with COVID and stuff is really hard,” he said. “And so it’s nice to have things that are stable. … We don’t have it hanging over us in an unstable time.”

And he feels that such stability is a boon for students and staff alike.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve negotiated two contracts in the last two years and were able to work through them,” Wharton said. “We were able to professionally come to an agreement on what’s good for our employees and what’s good for our kids.”


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