Support Safety and Equity at SPS

Support Safety and Equity at SPS

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Af-soomaali halkan

Dear Seattle School Community,

We have every intent to phase-in a safe, equitable, and smooth return for students this spring starting with Preschool and PreK-12 Special Education Intensive Service Pathways, BUT we can ONLY do so when the District works in partnership with educators to reach mutual agreement.

The District needs to be honest with students and families.  We do not believe students or families should plan on March 11 for in-person instruction given that we have not reached any agreement with the District yet.

On Wednesday, March 3, our Representative Assembly overwhelmingly voted to affirm that all SEA-represented employees will continue with their job responsibilities as outlined in the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) until a new agreement is reached.  This means that all SEA-represented employees who are currently working remotely will remain remote, and employees who have been providing in-person services (including one-on-one with students) will continue to do so. SEA stands firm and united against the Superintendent's bad-faith bullying tactics.

In addition, the Representative Assembly of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) overwhelmingly adopted a "Vote of No Confidence" in Superintendent Juneau. This vote was not taken lightly. Educators have been bargaining tirelessly to reach an agreement with SPS that prioritizes health and safety, centering the equity needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color student communities and staff in response to this pandemic.  The vote comes on the heels of SPS’ announcement that they are arbitrarily and unilaterally declaring more educators “essential” to force them back into buildings in an attempt to end-run around bargaining.

We understand this is extremely frustrating for our families.  It is extremely frustrating for us as well.  We know the community has questions about educators’ concerns.  The following are the key issues:

1. Reopening school buildings is complex and will be new for many educators, students, and families.  There will be confusion as staff and students adjust to this new environment.  Clear, transparent, and accessible communication for school communities is critical to ensure a common understanding of all necessary protocols needed to minimize risk in school buildings.  We cannot have a common understanding when we have not reached an agreement. Why is the District unwilling to commit to transparent and consistent communication for staff and families?

2. Educators are the ones who will be responsible for implementing a smooth return to school buildings and ensuring the health and safety of students.  Educator voice and input are essential for an effective District wide plan that will safeguard the fidelity of health and safety protocols.  SEA members currently providing in-person services in school buildings continue to see indicators that buildings and communication plans are not ready, from HVAC systems to PPE access.  Why is the District unwilling to put these important building health and safety commitments in writing?

3. The District has misled our school community by saying bargaining is not required and refusing to reach mutual agreement prior to implementing a new instructional model that increases the number of students returning to buildings. In doing so, the District has fundamentally broken all trust.  If we cannot trust the District to do the work to reach a mutual agreement with educators, how can we trust the District with our health and safety?

So how do we get back on track?

Send a message to the School Board and Superintendent Juneau asking them to immediately rescind any communications or efforts to unilaterally force a return to in-person without reaching an agreement first. In the same message, ask them to respect educators by refocusing their energy in reaching an agreement at the bargaining table.

SEA is confident we can more quickly reach an agreement for a return to in-person if both parties fully focus their energy at the bargaining table.


Jennifer Matter

SEA President

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