Mid level students may go back to six period daysLake Stevens School District eager to negotiate with LSEA BY PAM STEVENS | EDITOR After reviewing test scores at both Lake Stevens and North Lake Middle Schools the Lake Stevens School District found that currently seven out of 10 students were not passing the state reading, writing and math tests. This was back in 2006.
In light of this information, the school district convened a committee, in August of 2006, which was made up of administrators and teachers to find out what could be done to teach the reading, writing and math curriculum in a way that would help students learn the material and pass state tests.
This committee met over the course of three months where they studied various options regarding class configuration.
In October of that year the committee recommended the mid level students, which now would include not only Lake Stevens Middle and North Lake but also the new Cavelero Mid High students, go to a five period day with 70 minute class periods.
The reasoning behind this recommendation included students having more time in core subjects and less time moving between classes giving the students the opportunity to really learn the needed curriculum.
“The goal of changing to a five period day was to provide additional instructional time in the core areas of math, science and language arts,” Arlene Hulten, Community Relations Director for the school district said. “We believe that providing 70 minutes of dedicated instructional time in these subjects will result in improved academic achievement for our mid level learners.”
In early 2007 the Lake Stevens Education Association (LSEA) requested that the district enter into bargaining regarding what impact the five period day would have on teachers and their current contract.
The school district quickly offered dates for bargaining, however, LSEA rescinded and instead filed a grievance. Soon after the LSEA filed for arbitration but then decided they again would like to bargain with the district. Three bargaining sessions were held however, no settlement was reached.
LSEA once again submitted a grievance for arbitration.
On Monday, Jan. 28 an arbitrator decided that the district could have tried to negotiate the change during contract talks in 2006 but found that they did not bring up the subject during those negotiations.
“The district was not able to negotiate the five period day during contract talks in 2006 due to the fact that the committee didn’t begin the study until August 2006, after the contract was settled,” Hulten said.
James Gow, president of the Lake Stevens Education Association, said through a written statement, that some teachers liked the new five period schedule, but felt that the association had an obligation to uphold the contract.
“The contract has clear and unambiguous contract language about school schedules that was negotiated between parties back in 1998,” the statement said. “That language can only be changed if both sides agree.”
The hope of the school district is that both parties can come together to resolve the issues at hand and create a learning environment for mid level students that will increase not only test scores but also the understanding of the required curriculum while fulfilling the contractual obligations to teachers.
“This was a difficult issue because there were some positive aspects in what the administration wanted to do,” Gow said. “Allowing the district to make this type of unilateral change to our contract would have rendered our class size limits useless. That would have affected teachers and students alike.”
If terms are not negotiated in a timely manner, class schedules will revert back to six period days.
“The district is currently meeting with principals to discuss the six period day and how to structure it to provide additional instructional time for math, science and language arts,” Hulten said.