SEA: ‘Raw emotion’ from members following SPS layoffs

Since Spokane Public schools announced massive layoffs to address a $31 million budget gap, the Spokane Education Association has spoken up.

“It is very traumatic news to hear when you have no idea if you are going to have a job come the fall and that the likelihood of that is probably not very high,” said SEA President Katy Henry.

According to its website SEA represents 3,400 of the district’s 4,110 employees, a group ranging from janitors and nutrition services to the teachers in the classroom.

When she was notified Thursday of the number of cuts the district would be making, Henry said it “took her breath away”.

“That was a bigger number than we expected to hear,” she said.

325 staff members were given notice on Thursday. 182 of those employees are certificated.

Henry says SEA’s contracts include language for recalling employees if the district’s financial circumstances were to change.

The Washington State Legislature is negotiating both the next general operating budget as well as changes to levy laws.

But SPS communications director Brian Coddington said today that the district waited as long as possible to make this decision. Henry said too much remains unknown about the status of those negotiations to make any predictions for their members.

The two organizations will collaborate to ensure that all parties are following the processes lined out in contracts.

“What has been a good part and part of our relationship with the district is that we have to be very collaborative and we want to do that because our community and our staff benefit when those relationships are working collaboratively together,” Henry said.

It’s a discussion Henry said other districts in the state will likely be having soon. The Mead School District has already announced a meeting next week to address a $12 million budget shortfall.

SEA says it’s focus right now is notifying its own members of their protections and guiding them through this next step.

“So someone who has been notified that they’ve been laid off.. we’re going to hold a meeting for them on monday in which we’ll give them specific information around what their rights are and what the recall process is within the contract,” she said.

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