Teachers and district reach tentative agreement


Katarina Ilić

Teachers stand in front of Tigard High in solidarity as the union and district continue to work on a contractual agreement.

By Laura Taylor, Staff Writer

Update: Voting ended at 4 p.m. on January 30 and 512 of the 542 members voted yes on approving the tentative agreement for ratification, giving it a 94.5% majority. On Monday, February 6, TTSD School Board members will vote on approving the agreement during the school board meeting. 

On Saturday January 21 at 12:10 a.m. the Tigard Tualatin Educators Association (TTEA) and the Tigard Tualatin School District signed a tentative agreement over the licensed staff contracts. Negotiations for this contract began winter of 2021, and started up again this September after breaking for the summer. 

Usually, the negotiations are close to being finished before the existing contract expires but that was not the case this time around. The contract expired June 30 of 2022 meaning teachers have spent practically half a year working without a contract. 

“Our fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30. And that was the final day of the contract so when that happens, we are no longer under contract but we operate under many clauses of the old contract. But there is no raise, everything just continues” said Kati McKee, a member of the union’s executive board and one of the main negotiators. 

So what exactly is meant by a “tentative” agreement? 

First negotiations had to go back and forth, as more than 30 articles in the expired contract were opened and examined. Then when an agreement was made it was signed by the district superintendent, Dr. Sue Rieke Smith, and by the union president, Scott Heron. 

The tentative agreement then got approved by the executive board and the building representative council for the union. It was made available to the union members at 8:00 a.m. on January 23, and they were given five days to look over it. The final step: voting. 

“There’s around 750 union members, and there has to be a majority for it to be a permanent agreement,” said McKee. “So we will go from a tentative agreement to a contract at that point.”

However McKee had high hopes for the vote which occurred January 30. 

“From what I am hearing from my colleagues I am very confident. We’ve had several meetings where people get to ask questions, clarify things, and there’s always people who are not happy, which is fine, it’s a democratic process, but those who are unhappy seem to be much fewer than those who are confident about what we have agreed to.” 

While it seems the contract is now very close to being settled, it took a lot of steps to get here. And for this particular agreement, a mediator was brought in.

“I’ve been here 35 years, there’s a lot of negotiations I’ve seen but I know of at least 3 that have gone to mediation,” explained McKee. “It’s not binding, but, it’s a facilitator and during that process we were able to get where we needed to be.”

Mediation was not the only thing setting these lengthy negotiations apart from previous agreements. Teachers and union members also began taking action. 

The week of January 16, teachers district wide decided to only work within their contract hours. This meant no engaging with students or any work during lunch, or outside of the 8:10 to 4:10 work day. English teacher Kellie Gudenas was one of the people who participated in this. 

“Teachers put in a lot of time outside of the school day, outside of contract hours, answering emails, planning lessons, grading, giving feedback, so this is a chance to show how much additional work we put in by having one week where we try not to do all those extra things,” Gudenas shared. 

However the teachers did not stop there. Hoping to bring the message to community members, they came up with another idea.

“We developed the idea to stand outside, walk out of the building, as a unified front, holding our ‘working without a contract signs,’ so that as students left the building and as parents picked up their kids, they would see and have more understanding of what’s going on,” said Gudenas. 

On January 17 roughly 53 teachers walked out of Tigard High School onto the sidewalk outside by Durham Road. Ending at exactly 4:10 pm, the gathering prompted many honks and hollers from students and families driving by. 

At the gathering, The Paw also spoke with health teacher McKaley Brewer who shared what the teachers were hoping to demonstrate.

“We are asking for some different things like increases in pay to go with increased cost of living, and just other fair employment conditions like we all deserve,” stated Brewer. 

When asked if these actions had an impact on the negotiations, McKee explained that they were pivotal in demonstrating how the teachers were unified. 

“We had a couple of gatherings in December as well just to show that no, we are unified. We’ve got the membership saying we’re going down the same road together. So I think it has a positive impact on the other side in just proving that it’s not just 9 of us. That there’s a whole group,” shared McKee. 

So what happens next?

Union members voted on January 30 at the district office. In the likely event it gets passed, payroll will need to figure out how to distribute the retroactive pay for the past five months that teachers have spent without a contract. However the next pay check that comes in will reflect the increase in pay and the updated articles will be instilled. 

McKee concluded by sharing, “There’s still several things that have to happen but we can all kind of take a breath and go, ‘ok we’re done’. We’ve now got a two year contract, we don’t have to do this again for a while.”