Kent teachers claim district owes them $5.5 million in wages

Kent teachers say the school district has shorted them pay for three days of work each year

Kent teachers say the school district has shorted them pay for three days of work each year, totaling $5.5 million since 2013.

But Kent School District officials dispute the claim.

Under a supplemental contract with the district, since 2013 teachers have been paid for the designated deemed done days — which is additional time worked at the employee’s discretion — and four workshop days during the school year, but not for three pre-school year workshop days, according to a tort claim filed by the Kent Education Association, the union which represents teachers in the district.

“… The collective bargaining agreement clearly provides that all certificated employees are to be paid for the deemed done and school-year workshop days and the three pre-school year workshop days,” the claim says. “Given this clear mandate, Kent School District’s failure to pay its certificated staff for the three pre-school year workshop days constitutes a breach of the collective bargaining agreement .…”

The school district sees the issue differently.

“The district is very aware of the union’s perspective and interpretation of the contractual language in question,” the district said in a written statement. “Obviously our perspective differs and we are working through those differences with all due diligence and within the scope of our contract.”

KEA filed two separate actions over the pay dispute – a grievance and tort claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Kent School District spokesman Chris Loftis said the collective bargaining agreement, which is negotiated between the district and employees, outlines a grievance procedure used when two parties, either individuals or groups, have a conflict.

The first step is for an individual or group to present the problem to their supervisor. If the issue isn’t resolved, it is brought to the superintendent or a designated representative.

If a resolution still can’t be reached, a third-party mediator will hear the matter. The final step is to seek arbitration.

The district tries to resolve any grievance at the lowest and most personal level, Loftis said.

The pay dispute worked its way through the grievance process and is in arbitration, which is separate form the tort claim filed by the union.

“We are currently in both situations with the teachers’ union,” Loftis said in an email. “Still, in the end, we are confident the issue will be resolved, and we will continue to offer quality services to the public.”

Loftis declined to discuss specifics of the grievance filed over the pay dispute.

“We, of course, adhere to the provisions of those contracts, one of which is that we do not use the press to litigate differences in the court of public opinion or to place our partners in resolution in any sort of public disadvantage,” the district said in a statement. “Instead we depend on our negotiating teams and, in some cases the courts, to determine the most appropriate resolution of differing perspectives. With that in mind, we will continue to honor that important component in our contracts and not comment on the specifics of the complaint or our current efforts to resolve this challenge. Once resolved, we will be glad to provide further information.”