Accord Reached In Federal Way Teachers Strike

FEDERAL WAY - Public schools will reopen tomorrow if teachers ratify a tentative agreement reached during an all-night bargaining session.

Representatives of 1,100 striking teachers and the Federal Way School District agreed on a new contract around 3 a.m. today. Teachers were to vote on the agreement this afternoon at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Bill Hansen, a Thomas Jefferson High teacher and past president of the Federal Way Education Association, predicted that teachers would ratify the agreement, which adds full-time physical-education teachers or other specialists to the staffs of 23 elementary schools.

"It caught us up to where everybody else around here is," Hansen said. "Auburn has had PE specialists since 1980."

District Superintendent Tom Vander Ark said of the settlement, "I know there are going to be 15,000 households out there that will be really glad to hear that information this morning.

"I'm finally glad to do what I came here to do," said Vander Ark, who started off his superintendency with a teachers' strike, the first one over local issues in 20 years.

The strike delayed the start of school and has kept nearly 20,000 students home for six days.

The School Board voted last night to seek an injunction ordering the teachers back to work.

Vander Ark said this morning he was confident that teachers would accept the agreement and there would be no need to seek an injunction.

He said the agreement contains only minor changes from a proposal presented by the school district Sunday night. That proposal granted the teachers' demand for full-time specialists in all elementaries.

The contract will cost the district $1.8 million in its third and final year. Vander Ark said it will force the district to "reprioritize funds" in budgets for the next two years.

Washington Education Association spokeswoman Jeanne Johnson said the agreement was not hastened by the School Board's decision to seek a court order.

She declined to discuss details of the contract tentative agreement before it was outlined to the union membership.

Here are key features of the agreement, and their annual cost, according to the school district:

-- Half-time teaching specialists hired for all elementaries in the 1995-96 school year: $600,000. Committees at each school decide what kind of specialist to hire.

-- More specialists hired in 1996-96, boosting the number to one per school: $1.2 million.

-- Higher pay for working on new curriculum and choosing textbooks: $150,000 starting in 1995-96.

-- One-time paid training day this year for all teachers on shared decision-making: $250,000.

-- Optional professional development day: $250,000 starting in 1995-96.

The agreement was reached some six hours after the School Board voted unanimously to seek a court injunction ordering teachers back to the classroom. Angry parents and students clamored for an injunction at last night's board meeting.

The packed audience exploded into applause when Vander Ark declared, "My patience has run out," and recommended court action.

John Elder, who was worried about finding day care for his 7-year-old stepdaughter, had threatened to file his own petition for an injunction if the board did not. He pumped his fist and yelled, "Yes, yes," when Vander Ark made his recommendation.

--------------- SCHOOL SCHEDULE ---------------

Federal Way schools are expected to open tomorrow under the schedule planned for last Tuesday before the strike. If teachers ratify a tentative contract today as expected, all elementary schools will open tomorrow. Secondary schedules are as follows:

Illahee, Lakota and Sacajawea junior-high schools: Full-day orientation for seventh-graders only tomorrow. Eighth- and ninth-graders return Thursday.

Saghalie, Kilo and Totem junior highs: All students start tomorrow.

Federal Way High School: Open tomorrow for full-day orientation for 10th-graders and for 11th- and 12th-grade registration.

Decatur and Thomas Jefferson high schools: Registration tomorrow for all students.

Truman High: All students report to school.