Evergreen school employees rally in support of better working conditions

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 9:29 PM PDT
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VANCOUVER Wash. (KPTV) - After nearly seven months of negotiations, there still isn’t a plan locked down for some Evergreen Public Schools workers. The Evergreen PSE said they voted down another tentative contract agreement with the district last Thursday.

The rain didn’t stop Evergreen school employees and the community from coming out Tuesday night to rally in front of the District Administrative Service Center.

Bus drivers, parents, paraeducators, and teachers all said they came out to rally to support classified employees who work for Evergreen Public Schools.

“Twenty-three years as a bus driver and the favorite part is the kids,” Edy Lanphere, a retired bus driver, said.

“I have two boys now who are freshmen at Heritage High School, twins. And our older just graduated,” Joann Rash, a parent and paraeducator, said.

SEE ALSO: Ridgefield teachers vote overwhelmingly in favor of new three-year contract

“Those are the people who see our kids first and see our kids last,” Shaun Gundert, a high school science teacher, said.

President of Evergreen Large Group PSE said it’s been nearly seven months of bargaining with the district, and said they turned down two recent offers.

“We have paraeducators, bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers, pro techs and service workers,” Mindy Troffer-Cooper, Evergreen Large Group PSE President, said. “We are looking for fair and comparable wages with our surrounding districts, we are looking for more employees to be hired, and competitive wages will help with that. For safety and needs of our students possible.”

According to bargaining updates on the Evergreen Public Schools website, the latest tentative agreement proposed does include some wage increases, additional personal leave, and training, but those at the rally said it’s not enough.

“When you have someone who has a really demanding job who has to work a second job after that, a third job after that. They’re not able to show up for our kids,” Gundert said.

And said the kids are what it’s all about.

“We want our kids to be the best and we need help getting them there, but I’m confident we’ll get there,” Troffer-Cooper said.

Evergreen Public Schools did provide a statement saying, “Evergreen Public Schools continues to bargain in good faith with our union partners with the hope of reaching a fair agreement.”