Dear SEA Members and Seattle School Community,
It is with a heavy heart we have to report that we have been betrayed by Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Juneau, and Chief Negotiators Clover Codd and JoLynn Berge. Through their internal staff communications this afternoon, and public announcements to our parent and school communities, they are attempting to unilaterally impose new working conditions upon SEA members. We are also deeply concerned that Chief Negotiator Codd, and others at the District, have not been forthright with the School Board about what the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement provides and how this betrayal of trust will make a return to in-person that much more difficult this Spring.
SEA educators are currently serving students with IEPs in-person and the SEA bargaining team has been working in good faith at the bargaining table to negotiate an expansion of services to students in special education intensive service pathways as well as students in pre-K-1st grades as proposed by SPS. Unfortunately, we do not have a willing, collaborative, or trustworthy partner in this work. The District has chosen to use heavy-handed tactics instead of bargaining with SEA or respecting the voices of educators.
The following is a detailed description of what has occurred and why this is such a serious injury to our relationship.
Last summer, we collectively negotiated and reached agreement on a 48-page MOU that outlines the 2020-2021 school year starts in a remote model, with the provision that some special education services may be 1-to-1 based upon IEP team recommendations. This model continues until August 31, 2021, or until a new agreement is bargained. Specifically, the MOU provides:
"The parties agree that the provisions of this agreement shall remain in effect until August 31, 2021 or until a replacement agreement is bargained. The parties understand that during the 2020-2021 school year the public health situation may change allowing for hybrid or full in-person learning. All stages of remote to in-person learning will prioritize the health and safety of students, staff, and the greater community, while continuing to support students furthest from educational justice. The parties will meet to bargain modifications to this agreement prior to implementing changes in the working conditions and expectations of SEA represented employees."
In December, the School Board passed a resolution to change the learning model for Pre-K-1st grade and for some special education intensive service pathway students while also setting an arbitrary deadline. We were disappointed that the District passed this resolution without input from SEA or our members, but it was 100% clear that any change to the instructional model and any change to our working conditions would have to be bargained first, per the unambiguous language of our current MOU.
Yesterday, the School Board passed a resolution that deemed educators working in special education intensive service pathways and some pre-K settings "essential." Their intent is to force some staff back into buildings without first reaching joint agreement with SEA on updates to the MOU for expansion of in-person services. The ability for the Superintendent to deem certain tasks "essential" under the MOU was intended to support the remote instructional model and limited 1-to-1 special education services as recommended by the IEP team.
The "essential" task provision of the MOU was never intended to allow the Superintendent to unilaterally impose new working conditions without negotiation, as clearly outlined in the current MOU. The District has acknowledged the requirement to negotiate all year, and engaged in negotiations over these proposed changes until the bargaining process did not meet their arbitrarily set deadlines. This move to unilaterally implement without completing negotiations runs contrary to the bargaining that we have been engaged in for the past month.
This union-busting tactic by SPS is a fundamental breach of trust. The District has been misleading us at the bargaining table and has been gaslighting our school communities about the readiness for return to in-person instruction.
The District's bad-faith maneuvers will not expedite a return, to the contrary, it will delay any return and is a breach of trust not just with educators, but also with families, students, and our greater school community, including all the students waiting for special education services. It will be our Black and Brown communities who continue to be under-resourced and underserved with this action.
Although our trust in the District leadership has been shattered, we remain committed to the work to reach an agreement that dismantles ableist and racist systems and lives up to our school community’s words to do the strategic work that provides equity within SPS. Educators want to be sure they can answer questions from students and parents with confidence, and at this time they don’t have the confidence that SPS is being transparent with them.
SEA is considering all legal options, including filing an unfair labor practice against the district, to enforce the rights of SEA members. The SEA Board of Directors will meet to make recommendations to the SEA Representative Assembly and determine an appropriate response to this egregious attack on our members' rights.
Stay tuned for updates from your Association Rep on upcoming Solidarity actions.
Uti Hawkins, Bargaining Co-Chair
Reiko Dabney, Bargaining Co-Chair
Jennifer Matter, SEA President
Yvette De La Cruz, SEA Executive Director