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Dear HEA Members,

Unless you have been out enjoying the wilderness with no internet access, you have already heard that we, along with other districts in the area, will start school remotely.  This addresses our need for a healthy and safe opening to the school year.  

The waiver days that are typically spent in student-led conferencing will be moved to the first three days of school (Sept 3, 4, 8) in order to provide you with an opportunity to build relationships with your students and their families and ensure that all students have the devices they need to participate in instruction.  Time could also be allocated for professional development and possibly family training on using technology; this is still being discussed.  Professional development plans for earlier in August are also under development so check out the HPS PD calendar once August rolls around.

I still hope we all can take some time to rejuvenate over the next few weeks.  Despite the relief of knowing that science has prevailed, we also know the coming school year will bring both the joys and the challenges of professional growth.  This is because we want students to start strong and to stay strong throughout the school year.  For us to be prepared for that effort, August will require a focused and sustained effort on all of our parts.

I recognize that everyone wants their contributions, positions, and content expertise to be respected.   Working on remote platforms requires new skills in order to develop engaging, well-rounded, antiracist learning experiences for our students.   Through colleagues, collaboration, and coursework, I am confident that we will discover new ways to get to know our students and build relationships.  We will develop new methods for meeting their social emotional and academic needs remotely.  In the coming year, I am asking all Highline educators to take this opportunity to address ethnic studies within your grade level or content area.  If we make these changes, we are more likely to engage the individual interests of our students, and more importantly, they will finish the year better equipped with tools needed to change our society.

To learn more about the district model, I encourage you to attend the HSD’s July 29th webinar (8:30 or 2:30) to hear the district’s latest plans.  Links are also on the district website.

I truly believe we are all in this together.  HEA is therefore actively working with the MLK Labor Council to reach out in solidarity with working families. We are taking responsibility to find ways to make remote learning more accessible and the district more responsive to our family’s needs from their perspectives.  Please email our MLK Labor Delegate Joe Thomas if you would like to engage in this critical work.

Our next step in bargaining has been to invite HEA members who have participated in the districts’ work groups to meet with bargaining team members in order to determine what additional topics may need to be addressed.  During the first week of August, we will be negotiating the impact of the district's plan - including workload, member access to buildings and technology, and ways to address the needs of students and families, particularly those most distant from social and educational justice.

Given some questions I have been receiving, it is important to note that our current salary model includes compensation for educator-directed professional learning, along with additional self-directed enrichment activities, as a separate PLE stipend (Professional Learning & Enrichment). This stipend is in addition to your Base pay which - when we negotiated McCleary money - combined your previous base pay and what used to be known as TRI (which covered additional work related to your core professional responsibilities, when base pay was not at a professional level). The PLE stipend recognizes that as professionals, you go beyond the core responsibilities of your assigned position; you engage in self-directed work related to professional learning and attend enrichment activities with students and families at your school (sporting events, science fairs, theatre performances, etc.). Educators know what they best need to learn in order to do their job, and this stipend assumes that you will be proactive in addressing your own professsional learning needs.  While this does not preclude us from negotiating additional compensation for district-directed professional learning, it is important to understand that under the McCleary decision, part of our increase in pay was tied to this assumption that you know best what you need to grow your professional practice and will take steps to seek that out.

Finally, please know that throughout this process, our top shared priority with the district is maintaining the health and safety for all members of the education community, so any opening plan details must reflect that need for the system and for you as an individual.

In solidarity,