Contract talks ‘going well' between Kent School District and teachers union

Contract negotiations between the teachers union and the Kent School District are "going well" so far after three meetings over the last few weeks.

Marilyn Tullis

Marilyn Tullis

Contract negotiations between the teachers union and the Kent School District are “going well” so far after three meetings over the last few weeks.

Both sides hope to avoid the teacher strike after talks broke down in 2009 and delayed the start of school by about three weeks before a settlement was reached on the current two-year contract that expires Aug. 31.

“We are bargaining and have met three times and will continue to meet over the summer,” said Lisa Brackin-Johnson, president of the Kent Education Association that represents the teachers, in a phone interview Monday. “The atmosphere is much different than in the past. It's going OK. It's going well.”

Chris Loftis, spokesman for the Kent School District, agreed that talks are going well.

“They are in the midst of the process and all reports are that talks are going smoothly,” Loftis said.

Teachers will vote on a new contract this summer.

“We have a general membership meeting Aug. 30 at Kentwood High School and it should be for (contract) ratification we hope,” Brackin-Johnson said.

State and federal budget cuts to schools caused the Kent School Board to cut about $15 million in April from the 2011-12 budget. The district expects to lay off about 30 employees before next school year.

The district employs 3,300, including 1,745 teachers. The district has an annual budget of $325 million.

“The reality for every district is we have a smaller workforce but not a smaller responsibility,” Loftis said. “The new norm is to do more with less. But you still need to be fair to everyone in the process. That's what negotiations are all about.”

Brackin-Johnson said “learning conditions” and “teacher rights and responsibilities” are the primary topics the union plans to focus on.

Unlike two years ago during talks, the union will not make class size a primary negotiating issue.

“Class size is always an important issue,” Brackin-Johnson said. “But at this time with the information we have from the district and the state budgets where they are, we are not making specific requests for class sizes like in the past.”

The Legislature slashed $5 billion from the state budget, including a 1.9 percent cut for teacher pay. Since teachers negotiate contracts with individual districts, it remains to be seen how the Kent district and union will handle that cut.

“It'll have some impact,” Brackin-Johnson said. “But what it looks like, we have only begun the initial conversation. We have not discussed it in depth.”

Negotiators have yet to talk about the length of the new contract. The expiring contract is a two-year deal but previous contracts were for as long as three years.

Brackin-Johnson indicated another strike in Kent appears unlikely.

“I can't give a definitive answer to that question but if the current bargaining continues with the same tone and manner as it has been, we should be able to reach an agreement,” she said.

Loftis said talks have progressed steadily even as both sides deal with the challenge of budget reductions.

“The natural tension between labor and management is coupled with a natural partnership,” Loftis said. “Both sides need one another to get the job done and the job is one both sides care about passionately, educating 28,000-plus students every day.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Kent firefighters extinguish three separate brush fires on West Hill

Fire breaks out early Friday morning, July 12 in wooded area west of Interstate 5

Kent's Project Feast receives $10,000 grant from Jacques Pépin Foundation

Nonprofit offers culinary skills training program for immigrants and refugees

Valley SWAT helps arrest Kent man in domestic violence incident

Saturday, July 6 at a West Hill apartment complex

Kent Police Blotter: June 26 to July 6

Incidents include shootings, robberies, pursuits

Man busted for drugs in Kent receives eight-year prison sentence

Part of drug trafficking ring that brought hundreds of pounds of narcotics to Western Washington

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Judge denies bail reduction, release for man accused of shooting trooper in Kent

Bail remains at $3 million; defense attorney wanted release for drug treatment program

King County awards $1.2 million grant to Kent for salmon restoration

Money will be used for projects along the Green River

Dragon boat races no longer part of Kent Cornucopia Days

Lack of volunteers, resources leads to dropping of event first featured in 2001

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D) represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes multiple cities in King County. File photo
Congressman Smith weighs in on Supreme Court and Biden

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D) represents Renton, Mercer Island, Tukwila, Des Moines, Federal Way and parts of Seattle, Bellevue, Kent and Auburn.

Register for National Night Out event in Kent coming up Aug. 6

Organize neighborhood or community event to help get to know neighbors and prevent crime

Kent Police seek $2.25 million mobile command vehicle for major incidents

City applies for federal grant to pay for vehicle to respond to active shooter, mass casualty events

Portion of Reith Road in Kent to close for roundabout construction

Detours to be set up during July 9 to Sept. 1 closure at Lake Fenwick Road and South 253rd Street