The high cost of living for teachers and staff is an issue that must be addressed by the Lake Washington School District. The Lake Washington School District increased the minimum teacher salary to $65,000 (including benefits) as a result of the McCleary Plan that provided additional funds to all districts across the state. Teachers who have been with the District for 15+ years receive $100,000 in total compensation.
There are other staff members, including office secretaries, instructional assistants, para-educators and preschool teachers who are all part-time staff and are paid hourly. When the school year ends in June until it starts again in late August, schools are closed and the staff members are off without pay. These employees all struggle to make ends meet.
When we use the term "educational support professionals" we specifically mean the office secretaries who work in the main offices at our schools. Everyone knows their school secretary who is at school - every day of the school year - from when the school opens in the morning until it closes at the end of the day. School secretaries are responsible for knowing all students, parents and teachers. They must be computer literate and know the mechanical workings of the school building including PA, fire alarm and security systems. They must enforce restraining orders and navigate divorce disputes. They are responsible for medical issues (drugs, allergies, Epi-pens, insulin pumps). They take attendance and must know truancy laws. Unfortunately, all secretaries are low-paid hourly employees and receive part-time benefits. They all struggle to afford our high cost of living.
The Lake Washington School District has been in negotiations with the LWESP (Lake Washington Educational Support Professionals) union that represents the 265 office secretaries across the district. (Median annual pay is $50,468 - less than $1,000 per week.) Why these women were not invited to join the LWEA (Lake Washington Educational Association), the union that represents teachers, principals and administrators is a historical artifact from when office secretaries simply answered phones, took attendance and typed letters for the principal. Our office secretaries are essential to the daily functioning of our schools. They deserve pay that reflects their responsibilities. Their compensation packages should be increased to be competitive with salaries of administrative assistants in other public agencies and private businesses.
Similarly, the para-educators and instructional aides who are responsible for helping teachers with tutoring and special needs assistance are all part-time, hourly workers who struggle to make ends meet. (Median annual pay is $36,000.) There is constant turnover of para-educators as they work for a short time and then leave for better paying jobs. This hurts students and places an additional burden on teachers. The Board needs to make it a priority to change the status of classified staff to salaried, full-time positions.