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Lake Washington School District, secretaries agree to process to reach contract settlement

The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) and members of the Lake Washington Educational Support Personnel (LWESP) announced Wednesday afternoon they have agreed to a collaborative bargaining process to reach a settlement in the support staff’s year-long contract negotiations.

“The goal of this type of bargaining is to meet the interests of both parties,” noted LWSD Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard. “We have found with other bargaining units that it helps to foster good working relationships.”

LWESP members have agreed to suspend all community organizing activities while the process unfolds. The district will postpone employee investigations it launched last week in response to a well-publicized LWESP “sick day,” and union staff for the LWESP will suspend any challenges to those investigations.

“We have mutually agreed to seek collaborative bargaining in an effort to settle this contract. We need to return to our focus of providing a high-quality education for all students,” LWESP Chief Bargainer Donna Lurie said.

The two sides will work with John and Carol Glaser, a highly skilled pair of facilitators.

Both the district and union are committed to reaching a contract settlement through this process. Timing of the sessions is still being worked out, but the sessions are not expected to begin before the district’s spring break begins on March 29.

Thus, bargaining will be “on hold” until that time, said LWSD communications director Kathryn Reith.

When asked what prompted the two sides to come together in the bargaining process, after considerable tension between the LWSD and LWESP, both Reith and LWESP spokesperson Dale Folkerts did not provide an explanation, other than commenting, “We mutually agreed on having a third party assist in the process.”

The Redmond Reporter also asked if the LWESP might consider settling for less than a 10 percent wage increase, which is what the group has previously requested.

Folkerts responded, “Both sides will exchange contract proposals at the bargaining table, where this contract ultimately will be settled.”

When asked how the state’s as-yet-unknown level of budget cuts might affect the district’s decision to give the LWESP members a raise, Reith replied, “As we’ve noted before, the district’s overall compensation philosophy is to get each group to third on a list of comparable school districts.”

So will community members have a chance to weigh in on the decision about giving support personnel a raise — or not?

“We always welcome feedback from our community,” said Reith.

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