Anyone considering a career in education might have second thoughts given the recent swell of strikes by teacher’s unions. Thankfully for the Auburn Schools District (ASD), a union strike is a far distant memory. “We have great working relationships with our labor unions,” said Vicki Alonzo ASD Director of Communications.
Auburn Education Association (AEA) President Elaine Hogg agrees with Alonzo, “the AEA and ASD have spent decades developing a mutually respectful and professional working relationship. We actively seek out joint training, [and] agree to a clear set of guidelines for both negotiations and managing day to day business operations. [However], ultimately both sides have a deep commitment to the students, families, and community of Auburn as a whole.”
Keeping Up With ASD’s Growing Population
The City of Auburn, and therefore the ASD, is experiencing continual population increases. In 2017 the Puget Sound Educational Service District indicated that the ASD was the fastest growing school district in King County, based on percent increase. “The [ASD] is a great place to live and raise a family. We are excited about the growth of our district,” said Alonzo.
At the start of the 2018/2019 school year, ASD employed 1092 teachers. 123 of the 755 teachers that applied were hired on in 2018.
Knowing the district has a steady population increase, “[ASD] is conservative in its enrollment projections to make sure we don’t over staff. When enrollment comes in higher than expected, we have a few more positions we need to fill,” explained Alonzo. “Our headcount of enrolled students for October 1 [was] about 175 students higher than we projected.”
“The community’s support of the bond two years ago was so critical as we increase the capacity of our elementary schools that were part of the bond package to help accommodate the growth,” added Alonzo.
“The Auburn community is absolutely fantastic,” said Hogg, echoing Alonzo’s sentiments. “We could not ask for more supportive voters for levies and bonds, and support for students and educators daily. We encourage our families to join their local PTA, volunteer in the classroom and be involved; however, they can.”
The last negotiations between ASD and AEA were in August 2018. Hogg acknowledges that “negotiations aren’t easy and there may be occasional rough patches. We may disagree, but it never becomes personal, and ultimately, we find a way to work through our differences; which means we may have to agree to disagree and have to walk away from some issues.”
Daman Hunter, ASD Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources, said that to foster positive relationships with both teachers and the AEA it requires “open lines of communication, trust, and an emphasis on strong relationships.”
Another way that the ASD helps to avoid tensions and potential strikes are by upholding their fiduciary commitments to spend revenue wisely. “[The] AEA tracks the financial reporting that the ASD provides to the state so that we can ensure every dollar is spent on further student learning,” said Hogg. “[The] AEA wants to make sure that money is spent as close as possible to students, and that means the front-line staff that work with students each and every day.”
In recent years some school districts have had financial constraints, causing budget constraints that caused staffing cuts and a lack of basic supplies. Hogg explained that “while the ASD strives to provide all schools with academic materials, our district has incredible diversity and needs. Many of our members pay out of pocket to create the warm learning environment that students are welcomed to every day.
“The average cost of out of pocket expenses is $479 nationally. Additionally, teachers depend on various grants including our AEA membership grants twice yearly, local foundations, Communities In Schools for clothing and classroom supplies and other organizations to provide many of the resources to meet student needs.”
Some of the other local organizations the AEA recommends are: Auburn Public Schools Foundation, PTA, Auburn Community Scholarships and check out Donors Choose that many of our teachers access for specific needs for classroom projects.
Support Teachers With the Right Staff
When asked if there was more ASD could do to support the teachers, “of course, there are always opportunities to make improvements,” said Hogg. “So many times, people think only about teachers in the classroom as the educators of students, but there are so many others that are critical to students success. We would love to see an increase in guidance counselors, Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, Transition Specialists, and Learning Specialists.
“Additionally, AEA would very much like to see the following educators as full-time positions at each building in the district: nurses, Behavior Intervention Specialists, mental health counselors and social workers to help provide support for families experiencing mental health difficulties and with issues poverty.”
The ASD is currently hiring for several positions. Among those positions are School Nurse, Speech and Language Pathologist, Licensed Practical Nurse and Occupational Therapist. For a full list of current open ASD positions, and to apply, go to the ASD Job Listings Index.