Striking teachers rally at final meeting of Ridgefield School District Board of Trustees

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RIDGEFIELD Wash. (KPTV) – Schools in Ridgefield will remain closed on Wednesday after the district and the Ridgefield Education Association (REA) were unable to reach an agreement on Tuesday afternoon.

Dozens of people gathered outside the school district building to support the strike ahead of the school board meeting. REA co-chair Elizabeth Stamp addressed the group after talks with the district broke down.

“Hold on,” Stamp said. “We will continue to negotiate with them and see where we stand.”

The group then walked out into the yard to wait for the doors to open for the school board meeting. FOX 12 caught up with K4 Music Specialist Wendy Golden at Union Ridge Elementary before the reunion began.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Golden said. “I come to work every day and sing, dance, play with the kids, and they give my life and my work meaning and purpose and joy.”

Last year was Golden’s first year in a special education class as a music teacher. She hopes the REA and the district will come to an agreement on workload caps for their special education students and enrollment increases.

“We really want to provide students with not just people in the room, but we want to make sure that each student has the individual support they need, which is often outlined in their Individual Education Plans,” Golden said. “We really want to not only increase the staff for the students, but also for the teachers. We have just seen high turnover and burnout due to this lack of support that our most vulnerable population and the teachers who support them truly deserve.

Golden says that while the talks and the strike continue, they will provide bagged meals on any day classes are canceled.

“We want to make sure our students in our community are fed,” Golden said. “You can get these lunches at The United Methodist Church from noon until 2 a.m. until we run out of donations. We want to make sure people know they can come in, have lunch, and still see their teachers.

People made their way to the school board meeting, where board members opened the meeting by saying “tonight was all about listening.” Several shared their feelings about the strike in public comments.

“Things have been far from normal for my children over the past three years,” said a parent who did not support the strike. “From COVID, to online school, to masks, to BLM flags, and now it’s been four years of not normal because of the strike. I’m sorry to say that I don’t support it. I was unionized for 18 years and participated in many negotiations and offers. The teacher package was, in my opinion, an offer that was too good to be true. My children were delighted to go to school. They go to school for a short time, then the carport was pulled out from under them on a Friday and the parents are scrambling. I spoke to many parents who wondered what we were going to do.

“You focus on a top-notch school district, which often doesn’t include our special kids,” said one pro-strike parent. “Our district’s ability to recruit for both general education and special education classes is equal to or greater than neighboring districts. Our fear as a community has the ability to hold back these educators. You constantly ask a yes to this community, whether for a deposit or a levy. But when our teachers ask you for a yes, the answer is no. Basically, you’re saying no to our children.

In a statement to FOX 12 Tuesday night, REA said the following:

“The negotiations are over for the night. Our team clearly communicated to the district a collaborative agreement that would settle the deal. We plan to return to the table at 10:30 on Wednesday.

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