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Victory: Central Kitsap staff are recalled to work

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It took a stubborn fight against job cuts in Central Kitsap, but by Thursday bus drivers and food service employees will be back to work.

Members of CKESP — Central Kitsap Education Support Professionals — stood up, stood strong and stood united when the district announced it would cut about 100 support jobs because students were at home under the district’s distance-learning model. Employees emphasized that students and teachers need more support, not less, while schools are closed, and they offered to take on new duties to help as needed.

Under the Memorandum of Understand negotiated by CKESP, drivers who have not already returned to work will be guaranteed at least 50 percent of their hours and will receive benefits through the end of the 20-21 contract year. Mechanics were returned to 100 percent of their hours. The district had also returned food service workers whose hours had been cut. Employees can still collect unemployment to help offset any reduction from their previous hours.

“We’re a family,” CKESP President Lisa Danskin said. “That was our rallying cry. Families stand together.”

The victory did not come easily. CKESP engaged in intense organizing efforts, including online protests, social media information sharing, and in-person (socially distanced) rallies through Silverdale to the district offices.

“This would not have been possible without each of us doing our part,” Danskin said in thanking her members. “You made a difference and built the strength that was needed at the bargaining table.  This is exactly why I remind us that we truly are better together!”

The victory was important not only to use existing staff to support the evolving needs of students and teachers during the pandemic, but also because of the likelihood that current employees would be forced to leave the district for other jobs just to pay their bills. It’s challenge enough to find job applicants to meet normal staff turnover, particularly for bus drivers with their staggered hours and specific licensing and training requirements. Losing a large slice of current workers raised the question who would be left to return when schools do reopen.

Central Kitsap has more than 11,000 students in 19 schools and employs more than 800 support professionals.

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