Compromise key in Ridgefield School District teachers’ contract

The newly ratified collective bargaining agreement between the Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Education Association featured compromises between the two sides on key sticking points, such as the extension of state-provided salary increases and decreases to special education caseloads and class sizes.

A full copy of the contract — which is retroactive to Sept. 1 of this year and lasts through Aug. 31, 2025 — was made available on the district’s website late Tuesday night under a section labeled “employee resources.”

After reaching a tentative deal on a new contract Sunday afternoon, the union ratified the proposal in a membership meeting Tuesday evening with 99 percent membership approval. The union represents approximately 240 classroom teachers and certified staff members in Ridgefield.

Special education

The ratified result for special education caseloads appeared closer to what the district had sought in comparison with previous contracts. For example, special educators serving kindergarten through fourth-grade students will have a caseload of 24 students per educator throughout the duration of the three-year deal. In earlier versions of proposals in recent weeks, the union had asked for that number to shift to 22 students per educator by 2024-2025, the final year of the contract.

For high school students, the union had proposed reducing special education case loads to 23 students per educator by the final year of the contract; the finalized deal sets the limit for such caseloads to remain at 27 students for each year of the deal. The contract does, however, feature a decrease from 26 to 25 students per educator over the course of the agreement for grades five and six, and a decrease from 27 to 26 students per educator for grades seven and eight.

“The District recognizes the value of appropriate special education caseloads and will attempt to keep the caseload as low as possible,” the contract said.

The full details of this section of the contract can be found on page 39.

Cost-of-living adjustments

Another of the union’s chief concerns entering bargaining was that teachers be extended this year’s full 5.5 percent state cost of living adjustment allocation — essentially a state-mandated salary boost to combat inflation — as well as an understanding that any further state allocations be guaranteed without a need to reopen bargaining.

The district ultimately has extended the full breadth of the 2022 cost of living adjustment and has agreed to follow state guidelines on inflation-related salary increases going forward.

“Consistent with the provisions of RCW 28A.400.205, and applicable appropriations of the Washington State Omnibus Appropriations Act (state budget), compensation (eg, IPD) and insurance benefits (SEBB) shall be adjusted per funding guidelines by the legislature, Article 4 , Section 15 (Salary) of this agreement, and applicable state K-12 funding and state funded inflationary factors,” the contract said.

Further training

The district also agreed to provide annual training to teachers in de-escalation tactics to help maintain safer classrooms going forward.

“Annually, the district will provide training in current best practices around appropriate discipline/management techniques, including de-escalation, relationship building, and restorative practice,” the contract said.

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