In multiple letters to the editor, Lynne Chelius has characterized me as “fiscally irresponsible” in my service on the Edmonds School Board. Having served proudly in this capacity for the past eight years, including three as President, I am compelled to respond. I agree with Ms. Chelius that our voters deserve the right to information that is “informed and fact-based” and that “critical thinking and pertinent facts” should be employed — as some of this is missing in her opposition to my council candidacy.
The whole basis of Ms. Chelius’ June 15, 2019 letter is that the school board dismissed State Superintendent Reykdal’s letter to school districts to refrain from “bargaining away money they don’t have.” However, this letter was dated Aug. 22, 2018…nearly three weeks after the district and the EEA Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement on Aug. 1, 2018. In fact, boards and superintendents across the state had been pleading for more budget guidance from the legislature and OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) after a tumultuous legislative session, which ended on July 20 after three special sessions. Effectively, Reykdal’s memo was too late to provide real guidance, and landed more as an opportunity for him to take political cover.
The teacher contract was set to expire on Aug. 31, very soon after Reykdal’s Aug.22 letter Ms. Chelius repeatedly references. Does Ms. Chelius suggest that renegotiating the teacher contract with only eight days remaining, taking concessions away, would have been a wise decision? The potential for a teacher strike and delayed school start was very real, bringing with it fiscal damage and divisions in our community. I can’t imagine any school board director would think that is a good idea.
Following the new teacher contract, multiple 2019 legislative actions brought new funding challenges to the district. As a result, I voted with the majority in a difficult 3-2 decision to provide notifications to 25 teachers that their job was not guaranteed in the fall. It was the fiscally responsible action to take to prevent unexpected and drastic program cuts. Many voiced opposition to this action, but did not provide a viable and fiscally responsible plan to make up a $17.7 million budget shortfall. In fact, at our recent Aug. 13, 2019 Board meeting the budget was unanimously approved in a 4-0 vote.
As the new school year begins, it is helpful to understand where we are today. To date, 10.5 teacher positions (reduced from the original 25) were not renewed — a challenging outcome for these teachers. With more retirements, this number could be in single digits. Balancing this, the nearly 2,000 certified teachers in the Edmonds School District are receiving salaries with meaningful increases — increases allowing greater security and real change to this profession.
Ms. Chelius paints a simplistic description of a very complex problem. The reality is that the Edmonds School Board and District staff have worked extremely hard to balance great uncertainty while continuing to serve the best interests of our students, teachers and community.
Edmonds School Board President
City Council Candidate Position #6