No school in Tumwater Friday as strike continues

Tumwater schools were closed Thursday due to the ongoing strike between the district and teachers.
Tumwater schools were closed Thursday due to the ongoing strike between the district and teachers. Rolf Boone

Tumwater School District announced that schools will not open Friday and it will seek a court order to fine the Tumwater Education Association if a tentative agreement isn’t reached.

District spokeswoman Laurie Wiedenmeyer said the district will seek a per-day fine of $2,329. That’s a prorated amount of what Tumwater teachers pay in dues to the union, she said.

“Our legal counsel plans to file tomorrow (Friday) if no agreement is reached today (Thursday) and teachers don’t return tomorrow,” Wiedenmeyer said. “I want to reiterate that the district really does not want to have to do this and continues to be committed to reaching agreement at the table.”

Tumwater teachers were a no-show at schools on Thursday and schools will remain closed Friday, despite the district’s announcement Wednesday that classes would begin that day. The district said that because no agreement had been reached by 3:30 p.m. Thursday, school was canceled for Friday.

Tumwater High School Principal Jeff Broome said he had “zero (teacher) attendance” on Thursday, when the district had told teachers to show up to prepare their classrooms for the start of school.

Wiedenmeyer added: “As far as I know, the teachers stayed on the (picket) line.”

About 100 teachers gathered outside the high school at noon.

Math teacher Doug Peltier, who is going into his 26th year of teaching, said that 84 percent of the members represented by the union voted Wednesday to keep striking. That was in defiance of a judge’s ruling Wednesday morning that granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the school district to end the strike.

Peltier was asked why the strike needs to continue.

“It must go on for what’s best for students and teachers,” he said. “We’re still looking for safety language and lower class sizes (in our contract). And salaries that are competitive with teachers around us.”

Peltier said his wife teaches in the neighboring North Thurston Public Schools where first-year teachers can make $50,000 a year, while those with experience can earn around $99,000 a year. North Thurston teachers reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with their district last week.

“We’re looking for something that keeps teachers in this district,” Peltier said.

Class size also is important to Peltier. His AP calculus class is set to have 38 students in a classroom with 33 desks. That’s a problem, he said.