Classes start next week for Spokane Public Schools and for the first time in a while many teachers and support staff say they are going into the year feeling valued by the district after a three-year contract was approved by an overwhelming majority.
Over 91-percent of union members voted to approve a three-year contract with the district and Wednesday night the agreement was finalized with every member on the school board voting in favor of it as well.
Who this contract really benefits is the support staff, people like secretaries, nurses, and para-educators.
In one week the quiet halls of Rogers High School will be filled with the buzz of students.
“A lot of people don't realize that the support staff that works in schools, they make a difference, we make a difference in the lives of our students every day, That's what we chose as our careers, this is our career, not just a job,” Rogers High School attendance secretary Debby Chandler said.
Chandler has worked at Rogers as a member of their support staff for nearly 25 years. She says in previous years, support staff always felt somewhat short-changed in negotiations but, for the first time in 16 years, she's not having to juggle a second job this school year. She, along with others in her position, will see a 4.8 percent increase in pay this year.
“With a little bit of that stress taken off, that we're well on our way to feeling valued and respected,” Chandler said.
Both the district and the Spokane Education Association say this round of negotiations was different than recent years in a good way.
“For the first time I really feel like the district was really listening to us and we were really listening to the district,” SEA president Jenny Rose said.
Chandler says this school year already feels different and everyone is re-energized about their jobs.
“Just maybe that they can really concentrate on making a difference in the lives of kids and that's really truly what we all want,” she said.
There are a few changes to the calendar parents need to make note of, perhaps the biggest is that 12 Fridays throughout the year will be early release days.
“By early release, it's an hour and 15 minutes,” Kevin Morrison with Spokane Public Schools said.
With early start days being taken away last year, educators felt they lost valuable time to collaborate with their peers.
“Just to allow teachers, and their peers, they felt that that was necessary time for them to get together as groups to improve students scores,” Morrison explained.
The district says on those early release days the Express After School Care Program will start an hour and 15 minutes earlier to meet the need for child care.