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Canby teachers are 'still at the bargaining table,' invite district to rejoin them

Canby School District and its teachers have been bargaining for more than five months over teacher salaries. It's come to the point that the district has essentially called a stalemate and filed for mediation.

On behalf of the Canby Education Association, certified staff members Jennifer Czerkies, Colby Scheer and Traci Hall spoke up at the board's Nov. 21 meeting to read a statement from the association expressing disappointment in the district's move. Teacher Chris Bangs also read a separate statement. They were surrounded by approximately 175 certified staff members and their supporters, who made for a standing-room only crowd at the meeting.

The speakers described the sacrifices Canby teachers have made over the last 10 years, beginning in the 2010-2011 year when they agreed to take 14 unpaid days off in order to prevent the high school's art department from being cut. That decision saved the positions of 21 staff members that year, including Czerkies, according to email records.

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Canby High School teacher Jennifer Czerkies speaks into the microphone at a board meeting Thursday, Nov. 21 to defend certified staff members' desire for a higher cost-of-living salary adjustment.

Over the next four years, teachers took cost-of-living raises of 0 percent and took 26 additional unpaid days off, for a total of 43.

"During this time, we worked harder than ever to not let these external factors negatively impact the education of our students," Scheer said.

Teachers implemented Common Core State standards with minimal training and no new curriculum.

Czerkies said that during these years, "the school district's message to us was clear: our sacrifices now—while times are hard—will not go unappreciated once the economy recovered."

Then 2015 rolled around, and district finances were looking up.

"This was also our first contract negotiation with Superintendent Goodall," Scheer said. "Although he was new to Canby, we trusted that our years of sacrifice would factor into the District's initial offer. Clearly, it did not. CEA was disheartened when the District's initial proposal was once again 0 percent."

That year, the two parties bargained and settled at 2 percent, and they've been accepting a 2 percent increase ever since.

After viewing the last 20 years of salary increases though, on Oct. 21, the district offered teachers a 3 percent increase this year and 3 percent next year.

"The district has finally come back with an offer that is the highest compensation package we've been offered in 8 years, which, given what teachers have sacrificed over the last decade, is appropriate," Hall said. "However, what is not appropriate and is frankly disappointing and demoralizing, is that it still falls short of redressing how much teachers and our families have given up for our students and this district since 2010."

So the teachers are asking for 3 percent this year and 5 percent next year, noting that their salaries are presently 9 percent behind Portland-area inflation.

PMG PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Canby certified staff members (mostly teachers) and supporters stand after three representatives shared a statement at the school district board meeting Nov. 21. The seats and floor of the OMNI room were filled, and overflow attendees filled the lobby behind the room. In all there was an estimate 175 staff members and supporters in attendance.

The education association provided The Herald with a chart comparing the salaries of 14 area school districts, including Canby, Lake Oswego, West Linn Wilsonville, Molalla, Estacada, Oregon City and more.

With the 3 percent increase that the district is offering this year, compared to those districts, Canby's salaries are in the mid-low to mid-high range depending on degree earned and additional coursework, but drop significantly when taking into consideration that Canby teachers pay 6 percent of their salary into the public employee retirement system while the districts cover that in many other places.

Concerning negotiations, Hall said teachers want to get back to focusing on the classroom and would rather settle now, without mediation.

"CEA is still at the bargaining table," Hall said to end the associations' statement. "We hope the Canby School District will rejoin us."

According to a statement from the district Friday, mediation is scheduled for February, but the district acknowledged, "that does not preclude the district and association from continuing to work toward a settlement."

"We value the work of our licensed staff and hope we can reach an agreement soon," the district's statement says.

Kristen Wohlers
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