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Sketched Sept. 9, 2015

Because my kids aren’t in the Seattle school district, we didn’t miss out on the excitement of the first day of school.

But how about those Seattle parents, kids and teachers?

The first teachers’ strike since 1985 made for a very unusual start of the year. Thousands of district employees walked picket lines around empty school buildings. There were no yellow school buses in sight. Only the red shirts of the Seattle Education Association members stood out.

Outside Nathan Eckstein Middle School in Northeast Seattle, I watched dozens of school employees pace back and forth in silence as cars drove by. Many drivers honked. Some raised hands and flashed victory signs.

Teachers were very gracious answering my questions. Compensation is the biggest issue left on the table and most didn’t mind sharing how much they make. Talking with them face to face, I found it hard not to sympathize with them.

Here’s hoping a swift resolution is reached and parents, kids and teachers can enjoy a first day of school like my family had.

“I’m striking to make sure we get what we deserve for the work we do: fair compensation.”
Biology teacher Mona Aboel-Nil, 41
Experience: 18 years
Salary: $75,000

“This is the first time I’m striking as a teacher. I don’t like it. I feel sad. We’re ready to start.”
English as a Second Language teacher Anna Ioannides, 52
Experience: 27 years
Salary: $71,000

“This could go on a long time. I don’t think the teachers will back down.”
Math and algebra teacher Dori Bennett
Experience: 16 years
Salary: In the $50 to $60,000 range

“We want equity for all so everyone gets the same treatment.”
Social studies teacher Paul Cavender, 46
Experience: 9 years
Salary: $45,000

“It’s not a 40-hour-a-week job. The things we are asking for are not big issues.”
Science teacher Teresa Alsept, 58
Experience: Teaching at Eckstein since 2001
Salary: About $85,000

“Our district leadership has lost touch with what’s happening in our schools … As a parent, I’m worried that Seattle is going to be unable to keep teachers.”
Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, 44
House Administrator
Experience: 20 years
Salary: About $80,000

“I was ready to go to work today … It’s all about respect.”
Special Education teacher Micah Gibbens, 30
Took a $10,000 cut from his $70,000-a-year job in New York to come to Seattle. This is his first year on the job here.

“The base of my anger is the unwillingness of the district to work with the union.”
Kurt Thompson, 62
World languages teacher
Experience: 16 years

“You can’t live in Seattle with that wage.”
Michael Sanford, 60
Instructional assistant
Experience: 28 years
Salary: $37,000