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Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Judge to hear complaints in bid to end teachers strike

Times Snohomish County bureau

MARYSVILLE — A Snohomish County Superior Court judge this afternoon will hear two complaints asking to declare the Marysville teachers strike illegal and order teachers back to work.

But yesterday, teachers, students and parents tried to keep to many of the routines they've cultivated over the past few weeks, amid anxiety over what today may bring.

Teachers walked picket lines for a state-record 43rd day, several students rallied in hopes of encouraging a settlement, and parents and other residents remained split in their support of teachers and district leaders.

Evidence of that community divide could be found yesterday in the form of a yard sign — "Erase the School Board" — and in the rude gesture of a driver as he passed a picket line.

Judge Linda Krese will hear the complaints, by the Marysville School District and parents group Tired of the Strike, at 1 p.m.

Marysville School District spokeswoman Judy Parker said that if Krese orders teachers back to work, the schools will be ready to open tomorrow. Meanwhile, Marysville Education Association (MEA) President Elaine Hanson reiterated that the strike would end when School Board members offer a fair deal.

Parents and students said they would follow news of the court hearing closely, while the 650-member MEA plans to rally today outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett.

"In this community, (today's) a pretty huge day," said Steve Soule, organizer of the group Parents For Kids, which says it supports any solution that gets Marysville kids back to school and is seeking community volunteers to teach students while teachers strike.

"It's a day of reckoning, so to speak, and both sides think they'll win. Whatever the judge says will set a precedent. But, if the injunction fails, or it passes and teachers violate it, the community will be divided even further."

Outside Marysville Junior High, math teacher Janice Clancy and special-education teacher Mike Wray said they planned to go to the courthouse and were optimistic that the judge would not force teachers back to work.

If the judge does issue an injunction, the two said, the union would meet to determine what to do next. But they said they don't want to be forced back to work without a new contract.

"We've been out here six weeks. We can't go back without a change," Wray said. "It would be throwing away everything we've been doing, and it would be turning our backs on all that."

Added Clancy: "I always felt appreciated before and that what I did mattered, but with the contract (the district is) offering, I don't feel that way."

Across town at the district's new 145-student Arts & Technology High School, Principal Bruce Saari sat in his office, the lone person in the building. Outside the school, housed in the town's old Hewlett-Packard building, the empty parking lot collected piles of leaves. Inside, new computers and science equipment sat unused.

Saari, who was instrumental in the 1990s in establishing the Bellevue International School and Lake Washington International School — both well-known for high student achievement — said he's anxious to begin work at Marysville's $524,000 small-school endeavor.

"It's been challenging," he said. "We'll start the year late but still have a successful year because there's so much important work to do. We're just going to roll up our sleeves and get to it when we can."

At Marysville-Pilchuck High School, junior Shyra Roe and sophomore Haley Matz were getting ready to run laps at the track.

"Everyone's frustrated, even the people who don't like school," Roe said. "Everyone wants to be back. I don't get why they can't solve it while we're in school."

J.J. Jensen: 425-745-7809 or jjensen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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