Snoqualmie Valley district reaches tentative deal with teachers

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. - A tentative deal was reached late Sunday afternoon between the the Snoqualmie Valley School District and the teachers' union, apparently averting a strike there.

If teachers vote to accept the contract agreement Sunday evening, then school could start Monday in the sprawling King County district that includes Mount Si High School and a number of elementary and middle schools.

Union leaders say the drawn-out negotiations have taken an emotional toll.

"It's hard to go through this process without hurt feelings, and I think the relationship is a bit strained," says Lisa Radmer of the union negotiating team. "But starting tomorrow we're going to start working on that."

Up until Sunday afternoon, it appeared this was indeed heading for a strike.

Teachers were preparing over the weekend, making picket signs for a walk-out that was scheduled to start Monday morning if there was no agreement. That would have forced the district to cancel all classes.

But both sides bargained for many hours at school district headquarters - settling on a raise for teachers that amounts to a total of a 6 percent increase over three years, along with limits on class size and additional pay for teachers who end up with more students.

Both sides are frustrated that the contract talks started way back in April and took this long to arrive at a tentative agreement.

"I think it was frustrating for everyone that we couldn't have brought this to a resolution sooner," says Carolyn Malcolm, spokeswoman for the Snoqualmie Valley School District. "I know it created anxiety for our community, which was hard on everyone. So yes, if they want to start sooner, absolutely."