South Kitsap School District could seek an injunction to stop a strike

PORT ORCHARD -- South Kitsap teachers are promising to go on strike over large class sizes.

In response, the School Board on Wednesday night gave the superintendent the power to seek a court injunction to force teachers back to work if they do strike next week. The board also gave Superintendent Michelle Reid the authorization to hire temporary and substitute teachers.

Earlier in the day, dozens of South Kitsap teachers marched through the streets holding up signs. Each teacher had a number showing how many students they had in their class this year. Many teachers had signs ranging from 33 to 37.

In May, citing a budget shortfall, the district cut 57 teaching positions saving nearly $5 million.

“Not filling the positions this year doesn’t save money, it means we are not spending further into our savings account,” Reid said.

The South Kitsap Education Association, the teachers' union, said the financial picture is not as bleak as the district portrays it.

“SKEA firmly believes the district has enough money,” said Judy Arbogast.

Now, one week from the first day of classes, the School Board was taking no chances.  They passed a set of resolutions allowing the district to suspend pay, hire substitute teachers or even seek a court injunction if there is a strike.

“It’s not a really good thing to do that right now,” said parent Frank DeGregory.

The union says they are disappointed but not surprised by the move.

With seven classes across the district expected to have 40 or more kids this year, teachers are standing their ground. And many parents are behind them every step of the way.

“If they have any hopes of their kids having a good education, they need to support the teachers on this one,” said DeGregory.

The district is expected to make an offer at the bargaining table on Thursday. The superintendent says she is confident they will be able to avoid a strike.

The union wants the district to restore 30 jobs out of the 57 positions cut in May. The superintendent says they have rehired about four more teachers this past week and she is hoping to restore more positions.

If they cannot come to an agreement, the strike begins Sept. 4 which is the first day of school.