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In this issue:  Next Steps, HEA Elementary Survey & All HEA Commitment Card, PS: HEA Election, BSTs, Accommodations, Vaccinations, Planning Ahead

January 15, 2021

Dear Members,

I write this letter to you on Thursday, in the midst of a swirling context of change.  As such, by the time you read this, things may be different.  One thing I know that hasn’t changed is my personal commitment to the health and safety of our members, our students, and our communities.  

Let me assure you, we have bargaining sessions scheduled.  We know how to bargain.  We have always bargained from a place of strength both because of our high membership rates but also because of the dedication to unionism found in each and every building.  An example of this is our HEA Building Reps who have been actively collecting information and gathering feedback on what you are feeling about the return to in-person instruction and sending it our way.  

At the same time, HEA leadership has been conducting our own HEA Elementary Survey separate from the district’s survey, regarding a return to in-person learning.  About 230 of you have completed it.  That quick survey remains open, so please complete it if you work at an ECE or Elementary site because it would be great to have a higher response rate.  Earlier I also met with IAC Elementary Teachers and am scheduling a meeting with IAC Secondary next week.

Tuesday was a big day.  We learned more details about the district’s plan and later learned the WEA Board passed a resolution stipulating that any return to hybrid learning must be predicated on all staff having access to the vaccine prior to being asked to return.  That WEA resolution is here.

As a result of all this, as your president, I am recommending that the HEA membership adopt this resolution in solidarity with locals across the area.  While the Highline School District has worked diligently to follow all Labor and Industry safety requirements and Public Health guidelines needed to open buildings, there are many school districts that have demonstrated limited commitment to this safety planning process and yet are open or considering opening.  We are at a key juncture in the opening of buildings to staff and students, and WEA has stepped up and demonstrated that we must provide a united front.

Your HEA Executive Board will next meet on January 25th to take up this recommendation.  By then, we need information from you for strategic planning and organizing in the days and weeks ahead of March 1.  To assist us, I am asking for all members to complete an electronic commitment card that you will be receiving in your personal email called “Covid Commitment Card.”  

In the meantime, continue to communicate with members of your community, all lawmakers and government leaders (school board members, governor, legislators, King County Executive, etc) around the following three talking points: 

  1. All school districts must follow all health and safety guidelines (L&I and DOH); 
  2. All of the educators currently working in-person with students in Highline and across the state should have access to the vaccine in Phase 1-B2 or sooner, regardless of the staff person’s age; and
  3. Everyone now being directed to return to work in an in-person school setting should have access to the vaccine prior to their return regardless of their age.

Your HEA leadership team knows that job actions are stressful and require energy but never underestimate what we can accomplish together!  Please thank your HEA Reps, your Covid Co-captains, and consider volunteering to be a member of the Bargaining Support Team.  Complete all surveys and be ready to respond to the results.

In solidarity,


PS Please look for the Ballotpoint WEA/NEA RA Delegate ballot in your home email and vote today using their two-step totally secure and anonymous voting system.  Your candidates thank you AND if you are interested in “Being in the Room Where it Happens,” please use a write-in spot to submit your name and encourage your colleagues to add your name as well.

HEA Bargaining Support Team (BST).  We have two impact bargaining dates coming up:  January 20 and January 27.  Your impact bargaining team has expanded to incorporate more elementary and DL voices.  It is comprised of Jeb Binns, Zanovia Clark, Claudia Conroy, Thara Cooper, Edissa Jaramillo, Brandice Tranholt, along with Elizabeth Beck and me.  Julie Mahieu is available to address ESA issues.  

At this point, your HEA Reps could benefit from a small team of bargaining support members, including a BST Worksite Lead.  The role of this team is to keep every member engaged and informed about the bargaining process and what members can do to support the HEA Bargaining Team including family and community outreach.  Your HEA Reps are being asked to submit names from their sites in the coming days.

Apply for Accommodations Today.  All employees are strongly advised to apply for accommodations right away, if they intend to do so.  Even after the vaccine arrives, and we excitedly return to buildings, there still will be a number of staff needed to work remotely.  ALL staff are eligible for some level of accommodations based on one of the following categories.  Different leave options are also available depending on the category. Remote assignments and leaves will be offered in descending order and depend on both an individual’s situation and how many parents select remote instruction for their children, so not all employees may be offered an accommodation. See the Reopening Schools MOU for more details. 

Please email human.resources@highlineschools.org to set up your appointment today.

1. Employees with COVID-19 or Suspected COVID-19

2. Employees Quarantining due to Exposure to COVID-19

3. Employees Caring for Someone with COVID-19/Suspected COVID-19: 

4. Higher Risk Employees

5. Higher Risk Individual in the Employee’s Household

6. Employees with Children Impacted by School Closure

7. Employees Who Cannot Wear a Face Covering or Other Required PPE

8. Employees Who Otherwise Choose to Not Work at a District Work Site Due to Concern for Safety

9. Employees Who Choose to Not Wear a Face Covering or Other Required PPE.

Vaccinations.  We are actively working with the district to communicate with staff currently working in-person who perform healthcare-related tasks, to ask their medical provider to authorize vaccination now under provisions in the state guidelines.  In the meantime, please provide your feedback to the government on the roll out of the proposed vaccination schedule using the Washington State COVID-19 Vaccine Plan form.  We are not advocating for moving ahead of other essential workers on the timeline.  We do, however, want all educators working in-person to have access to the vaccine.

Preparing for Your Personal Safety.  We recognize that there are many things going on outside of the pandemic and return to instruction.  In our efforts to focus on our work, we might not be as focused on our families.  Today I received an open letter from James Boutin, a former HEA Leader, who has connections across our community.  With some trepidation he writes:

Dear Sandy,

The Seattle Times reported on January 12 that the FBI has received a number of 'very specific threats' directed toward the Capitol in Olympia and other courthouses and government buildings around Washington. The Times reports that protests may occur between January 16 through January 20."

I've been encouraging people to at least take a little bit of time to think through what level of risk they think they're exposed to depending on who they are and where they live, and then some concrete ideas for how to keep themselves and people in their networks safe if there is violence in their area. 

Of the people I know who are making plans right now, some concrete examples include: keeping the cars full of gas, having first aid and food at the house, thinking about which neighbors might have needs, and thinking about possible communications or transportation disruptions.

My experience is that these ideas seem to be helpful for some people and triggering for others. I spend a lot of time thinking about when and how to convey my concerns about the threats of violence right now. I don't know exactly what the right thing to do is, but I hope this is at least helpful in some way.

Stay safe,

James Boutin