The Wednesday, Aug. 23 San Juan Island School District board meeting included more attendees than the normally sparse gatherings draw. The public comment section included discussions on teachers’ salaries and the superintendent’s evaluations.
About 40 attendees, mostly wearing red and holding pink flyers that read “I support San Juan Island Educators” filled the Friday Harbor High School library.
About six teachers asked the board for increased salaries for the upcoming school year.
“It is important that our salaries help us keep up with the cost of living here,” said Holly Wehner, who has taught kindergarten in the district for four years. “We have gradually been receiving increases, but they are not enough to help us keep up.”
One educator noted the various second jobs island teachers employ to earn a living. Several discussed how the increase in classroom sizes also increases the difficulty of their jobs.
Ralph Hahn, chairman of the board, noted, after the public comment section, that two teaching positions, slated to be cut next year, have been saved. He called for a closed meeting after the regularly scheduled one to continue to discuss teacher salary negotiations. Staff salary negotiations, said Hahn, will be completed at another time.
He told the Journal that current district teachers’ contracts expire at the beginning of this school year on Aug. 31. Teachers made a salary request, which Superintendent Danna Diaz, as chief negotiator, reported to the board. Sometimes, he said, contracts can have gradual increases over several years, while other times, they are for one year, like the current contract. When a decision is made, the board will announce it publicly, he added.
The board reviewed three goals for the superintendent to achieve during the upcoming school year. Before the board discussion, Ruth McKenna stated she would like to include evaluators to ensure goals are met. McKenna is running for school board position 1 in the general election.
“As a former superintendent myself, I understand the confusion that can occur without clear performance expectations,” she told the Journal. “Without concrete expectations, they may never be achieved.”
McKenna suggested the board use the Washington State School Directors’ Association’s standards to evaluate the superintendent. She is not related to current board member Jack McKenna.
During the meeting, board members agreed on three superintendent goals, concentrating on the district’s vision, leadership and management. According to Hahn, they will discuss how to evaluate them with Diaz at a closed Sept. 13 work session, so she can voice her opinions. Highlights of this meeting will be publicized afterward, he added.
This school year marks Diaz’s third year as district superintendent.