LA CONNER — Two unions representing employees of the La Conner School District are requesting the removal of Whitney Meissner as superintendent.

The request followed “no confidence” votes by union members on June 7 and a tense meeting Monday that included the public airing of grievances by union and community members in front of a large audience.

"The grievances leading to the vote of no confidence are too significant and too numerous to be resolved with any remedy other than the removal of Dr. Meissner," representatives of the La Conner Education Association (LEA) and Public School Employees (PSE) said in a statement released Tuesday to the Skagit Valley Herald.

Monday’s meeting ended, however, with three of five board members voting to approve Meissner’s annual evaluation, stating that she met the board’s expectations.

The board also planned to meet with union representatives Tuesday and then hold a special session today where it would re-address the issue of administrator compensation.

There was no board response Wednesday to the unions' call for Meissner's dismissal.

Meissner’s annual evaluation, which the board posted publicly, cites achievements such as her work to ratify both unions' contracts, which included significant raises and her assistance in the passage of a two-year $1.6 million levy, as well as ensuring the district did not have to send out reduction-in- force notices despite budget challenges.

Board President Janie Beasley and members Brad Smith and Katie Szurek voted to approve Meissner's evaluation, stating she had met the board's expectations. Members Susan Deyo and Lynette Cram abstained from the vote.

At the time of Meissner's contract extension in February, the board did not know about the unions’ concerns, Szurek told the Skagit Valley Herald.

Finalizing some of the wording of Meissner's contract, which is effective through June 2022, was postponed to a later date.

Complaints focused on what the unions deemed as negative management practices, poor communication and ineffective leadership.

Left undetermined as of Monday's meeting was a proposed 3.8% salary increase in the 2019-2020 school year for the district's administrative staff, including the business manager, special services manager, principals and assistant principal.

Although those contracts are set to begin effective July 1, the board today will again postpone approving those salary increases, opting to retroactively pay those staff members the increases once a decision is reached, according to board documents.

The district’s teachers received an average 27% increase last August in a two-year contract.

"We gave what I think are pretty significant, and well-deserved, increases to the teachers and the PSE," Szurek said.

Since then, the board has been working on a plan to also give raises to its administrators, she said.

"I think everybody in this district deserves every penny we can give them," Smith said.

The unions have requested a follow-up meeting with the board by July 19. The district's next regularly scheduled board meeting is July 22, with a study session to be held on July 15.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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