By MALLORY GRUBEN
The state’s only teachers union at an online-only school ratified its first contract in a unanimous March 10 vote, securing a 5% raise this school year, a shortened work day, a clear layoff policy and fair share fees for nonmembers, among other benefits.
Oregon Virtual Academy Educators Union, an affiliate of American Federation of Teachers Oregon, represents about 100 teachers, advisors, counselors, psychologists, social workers and coordinators at the Evergreen Virtual Academy, formerly known as Oregon Virtual Academy. Chartered by North Bend School District, Evergreen Virtual Academy is an online-only public school serving over 2,200 K-12 students who live anywhere in Oregon.
The agreement comes after nearly 18 months of bargaining that coincided with the academy’s restructure to an independent charter and sweeping layoffs due to decreased enrollment. Turnout for the ratification vote was 97%.
“We’re so excited for stability in our future,” said Marcy Tell, a chemistry teacher who has worked with the virtual school for 11 years.
Teachers won their union in an 85-16 vote on Aug. 12, 2021, and started bargaining about four months later. Negotiations paused for three months when North Bend School District board members decided to make it an independent charter school and separate from K-12 Stride Learning Solutions, the educational servicing corporation that had managed the academy.
“As they separated themselves from their corporate entity, there was a lot of economic uncertainty, and that’s never a good thing for negotiations,” said Rob Glase, field representative with AFT-Oregon. “So it probably dragged it out.”
The district also laid off about 30% of the academy’s staff in multiple rounds. Layoffs did not consider seniority at first, but did in later rounds at the request of the union bargaining team.
Salary and benefits for the last two years of the contract remain to be negotiated, and the bargaining committee expects to return to the table in April to pin down those details, Tell said.
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