The Eatonville School Board voted Thursday afternoon in a vote of 2-1 not to terminate employees who would not comply with Democrat Governor Jay Inslee's mandate for Washington state.
In August, Inslee implemented what was then the strictest vaccine mandate for state workers in the US and provided no option for workers to submit frequent testing in place of the COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City has done the same. Inslee also announced a vaccine requirement for all employees, on-site contractors and on-site volunteers in K-12 schools.
On Tuesday, Inslee fired nearly 1,900 state workers, including hundreds of first responders, that did not submit vaccination records, a requirement ordered by Inslee that had an October 18 deadline. Those numbers don't include workers that were fired by their local governments or those that opted to quit or retire early after hearing about the mandate. Those numbers combined are predicted to be in the thousands.
The meeting was called to order at 3:39 PM and lasted barely four and a half minutes. Only one agenda item was discussed a motion to approve the non-disciplinary termination in accordance with the Governor's proclamation mandating vaccination for state employees.
Ronda Litzenberger said she made the motion "with a heavy heart." After the motion was seconded, Litzenberger said during a brief discussion, "…just for public record, to know that we have done everything in our ability as a school board to try to accommodate, and hopefully offer multiple opportunities for these individuals to really work with them. That is my understanding as a school board director, and it's my hope that that has been the experience of every individual on this list. And we're very grateful for the service that they've given to Eatonville School District."
Paulette Gilliardi, assistant to the chair, concurred and turned out to be the only 'yes' vote after Litzenberger voted no. Before the vote, the other director Matt Marshall said, "I understand that we have a proclamation, but at some point, I can't stand to watch us lose employees. And I know none of you want to see us lose employees either. And this is painful to put us between a rock and a hard place."
Board chair Jeff Lucas agreed with Marshall and said before the vote, "I would echo the same myself. Lay the blame squarely at the feet of the state and Jay Inslee and I’m profoundly unhappy about this. And yet again, we're just put in a lousy place with no local input and just stuck taking it."
The motion failed 2-1 after Marshall voted "no." There are only four members of the board after a recent resignation. The board chair only votes in the event of a tie.
The meeting is adjourned at 3:42 pm, just over four minutes after it began.
What happens now remains a question with regard to compliance with Inslee’s mandate. Marshall told The Post Millennial explaining why he voted no on the motion, "If Governor Inslee wants to fire Eatonville School employees, he needs to do it himself. I am elected to represent Eatonville. School board directors are part of the legislative branch. Governor Inslee's proclamation is an executive order and does not compel me to vote how it says. We have checks and balances for a reason."
Marshall also said he had a message for the Governor. "So, Governor Inslee, feel free to come fire these employees yourself. I know that Inslee will send Bob Ferguson (WA Attorney General) to take action, but I'm fed up. If school boards are required to consistently comply with mandates and orders from above, without question, and without guidance for implementation; why do we even have a locally elected school board?"
According to a statement by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) on Tuesday, 1,887 out of 63,000 state employees were terminated or left their positions over the mandate. An additional 4.6 percent of state workers, almost 2,900, are still pending because the employees are either in the process of receiving a job accommodation, are planning to retire, are getting vaccinated or are awaiting separation from their agency.