July 11, 2017 – Tukwila School Board passes a resolution to open their collective bargaining meetings to the public
Feb. 13, 2018 – Tukwila School Board votes to rescind the resolution that kept the meetings open and transparent
Sept. 5, 2018 – Tukwila Teachers go on strike while the Tukwila Education Association and the Tukwila School Board further delay in coming to an agreement on salary and wages.
One can only wonder how this history would have been different if the education association and the board had opened their meetings to the public.
Think they would have come up with an agreement more quickly and effectively? You bet they would.
It’s frustrating for teachers when those in leadership who are supposed to be looking out for your best interests are keeping the negotiations secret and failing to make deals. Since the meetings are closed, public officials have much less accountability to the public, and the unions communicate much less with their members.
Teachers deserve a union that’s more clear and responsive.
In February, Jan Bolerjack, a Tukwila School Board member, complained that transparency would be too hard on the board.
“I don’t think with a new board that we are ready to launch into something new like this,” she said. “I think it makes us really vulnerable. And yet, if we don’t do it, how do we work through that feeling of secrecy?
“We don’t have the trust yet,” Bolerjack said, “and to say we’re not going to do this feels like we take the trust back a few steps. It feels like we really have got to work hard to be transparent in a way that makes sense to people.”
Are you buying this excuse?
During the session to repeal the open meeting policy, several community residents testified in favor of transparency. Christina Nueffer said, “A lack of transparency is always a product of self-interested parties.”
The Tukwila School Board is just more interested in protecting itself than being accountable to the public and those it represents.
In January 2017, the Pullman School District voted to approve a resolution to conduct collective bargaining negotiations in an open setting. This year, Pullman school is starting on time.
Open meetings not only provide more transparency, but it also helps build trust over time. Teachers and parents were happy to be able to attend and respectfully and quietly witness the negotiations.
Meanwhile, students of Tukwila are still not in school while their school board sits behind closed doors failing to make a deal with the teacher’s union.
Teachers are on strike, but as the public, they don’t know what is happening behind closed doors. All they know is what they are told, talking points and hyperbole.
Tukwila students, parents and school teachers deserve stronger leadership than this. Perhaps they should be looking to Pullman where transparent negotiations led to a contract.