Teachers and district agree on contract

Teachers and district agree on contract
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima's teachers will return to the classroom with a new contract. It took more than a year of negotiations between the union and the district. After 15 months of negotiations, a deal on a teacher contract is in place.

"I can't even add up how many hours, I mean hundreds of hours of meetings that a lot of the time were very frustrating," said Steve McKenna, the president of Yakima Education Association.

Those hours and meetings were devoted to areas of disagreement. The way to evaluate teacher performance was the primary sticking point. The union didn't want third parties likes students or parents to have input.

"That's like trying to say for policemen, if the crime rates are up in their area, they should deserve a bad evaluation," said McKenna.

However, the district wants to hold teachers responsible for their students' test scores.

"The most important person in that student's life is their teacher and how well that teacher does their work with students," said Cece Mahre, associate superintendent for Teaching and Learning.

Their solution is 120 pages of criteria for grading teachers. The new Teacher Growth and Evaluation Plan is the biggest change to the contract. It's been 30 years since the last change to this method.

"It definitely is gratifying and I think it's a good agreement for both sides," said McKenna.

"I feel like it's pretty thorough and we really thought about a lot of what needed to be thought about," said Mahre.

The contract calls for rating teachers in eight areas that are well-defined with examples. If teachers disagree with any of the results, they're expected to bring their own proof that shows otherwise.

"Conversations that occur are much more rich and robust because you have a framework that you're working from," said Mahre.

Now both sides are ready to put the paperwork aside and focus on the upcoming school year. Some items from the old contract were carried over to the new one and others were dropped. The school board is expected to approve the new deal Friday morning.