The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Teacher Strike Looming

District and teachers union at odds over new contract

Local teachers, school employees and community members gathered by the hundreds to rally before contract negotiations outside of the Bend-LaPine School District office in downtown Bend on Monday, Oct. 2.

School employees’ contracts expired last June and tensions are growing in the Bend education community. Teachers are currently working without a contract.

Contracts last for two years, and need to be renewed upon their expiration. Additionally, these agreements mandate working conditions, healthcare benefits, pay and more.

The Bend Education Association (BEA) rally preceded that evening’s bargaining, or negotiations, on contract changes between representatives of the school district and teachers’ union.

“After ten years in the district, this is the first year I feel a lack of respect toward my profession,” said Summit teacher Emily Tompkins.

Growing concerns over manageable class size, workload, planning time/management, safety measures, behavior protocol and better pay have finally reached their breaking point. 

Compounding the pain is the cost of living in a growing and increasingly expensive community. Teachers’ Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has not kept up with inflation. 

Summit teacher and BEA bargaining team member, Chris Kuka, revealed that last year’s teachers COLA was three percent, and inflation was around five percent. Teachers are working on a fixed income which means there is no other way to increase salary except through cost of living. 

“We live in an area where a teacher’s salary is not going to provide you with enough to necessarily buy a home, you might be able to rent, but your finances are very limited. I can tell you that there are teachers who have children who qualify for free and reduced lunches. This is a problem that we’d like to fix,” said Kuka. 

According to the district’s Director of Communication, Scott Maben, areas of agreement have been found, but figuring out how to pay for what the BEA is asking has proven to be the primary issue. 

“Much of what remains to be agreed on does have budgetary implications. If the district were to agree to all of the proposals the BEA has made, the district would be facing a substantial budget shortfall that would force us to make considerable cuts in programs and personnel. When the district steps to the bargaining table, it has a responsibility both to our employees and to the taxpayers who fund our district,” wrote Maben by way of email. 

If the two sides do not come to an agreement, a teacher strike is possible.

Oregon legislation mandates that government employees cannot strike until after 150 days of bargaining, a minimum of 15 days of mediation, final offers, and a 30 day “cooling off period,” according to the state’s Employment Relations Board website. Only then can workers strike after a 10 day notice. 

Negotiations began last May which means the union will be legally allowed to strike in the middle of December. But what is the actual probability of a strike occuring?

The district does not foresee a work stoppage. “We have no reason to believe that is likely in the near future,” wrote Maben in response to an inquiry on district preparation for a strike.  The two sides are still negotiating, said Maben, and if they are struggling to reach an agreement, either team may request a mediator. However, growing frustrations at the lack of progress continue to build, and unless the district and union come to an agreement, workers will have no option but to strike. 

“I want to work in a community where we are valued,” explains teacher Marni Spitz, “It feels bad that we have to work this hard to make changes.” The next BEA rally will be held on Oct. 30 at 4:30 p.m., outside the Bend-La Pine School District office in downtown Bend. The public is encouraged to attend.

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Laney McDonald
Laney McDonald, Staff Writer

When not digging unfinished projects out of the trash and looking around corners to recruit a wild percussionist, Sophomore staff writer Laney McDonald will be found covered in paint with a pencil tucked behind her ear. Funding her obsession of limited-edition records, the innate desire to fill her shelves with books she’ll never read, and her aspirations to own as many instruments as possible has drained any hope to acquire a college fund. For those sympathetic to her constant need of cash, any donations should be hand delivered as soon as possible. 


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  • M

    Mrs. HemsteadOct 30, 2023 at 7:38 pm

    I agree with Kersie. This article is clearly researched and well written. Not to mention a balanced report of local current events. Well done.

  • K

    Kersie KnollOct 20, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    Very well written article, all of the quotes were imbedded in a way that made sense. There was obvious thought put into this article and it was a very interesting read that pulls the reader in.