HR teachers’ union hints it might strike


News Editor

December 20, 2006

Most teachers in the Hood River County School District are prepared for something that has not happened in Hood River since 1978.

A teachers’ strike.

Kelvin Calkins, president of the Hood River Education Association, the union, told the board Dec. 13 that a strike was a possibility, as contract negotiations stretch into their sixth month.

Salary and language concerning PERS retirement account buyouts are two of the primary points of contention between the district and the teachers.

At the board meeting Calkins presented a petition signed by 269 of the 280 union members, reading, “We support and trust our bargaining team and will stand by whatever action they believe it is necessary to take.”

“I think you need to take that seriously,” Calkins told the board.

The two sides are negotiating a three-year contract; the previous two-year pact expired June 20, 2006. Negotiations began in June.

Calkins and District Superintendent Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady said the two sides are close to an agreement on salary, though the union has tied salary increases to Tax Shelter Annuity (TSA) payments by the board as part of the early retirement buyout clause of the contract proposal.

“TSA payment by district is historically counted as salary. They say they need an increase and a TSA,” Evenson-Brady said.

The third big issue is the question of contract language ensuring teachers have a say in where additional video surveillance cameras are placed.

“We’re trying to find a way to work through some of these issues,” Assistant Superintendent Connie Kennedy told the board Wednesday.

The board has proposed a policy to put cameras in public spaces, as well as shops, gyms athletic areas, and potentially libraries and cafeterias, some of which are at times used as classrooms. Cameras are currently in use at Hood River Valley High School, Hood River Middle School and Cascade Locks School.

“We’d consult with teachers before we put a camera in a classroom,” Evenson-Brady said.

“We have no intention of putting cameras in classrooms, but the first duty of district and board is to keep students safe and if a camera can play a role in that the board is not willing to give up the ability to do that,” Evenson-Brady said.

“What’s safer than a professional teacher in each classroom?” Calkins said Thursday. He said the union wants contractual assurance that the cameras won’t be used to assess teacher performance. Evenson-Brady stated that the board would adhere to current practice of using personal, in-room contact for teacher evaluation.

“We’re not at liberty to be negligent in letting a teacher say ‘Not in my classroom,’” Evenson-Brady said.

Cameras exist for safety and as part of the student discipline procedure, she said. Video footage of students would be considered part of the student record and made available only to those authorized by the superintendent.

Calkins told the board Wednesday, “I want to make sure the board understands how strained the negotiation situation is.”

Informal talks continue and the district and union have scheduled a second mediation session on Jan. 17. The first session, Nov. 27, went from 3:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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