School board rejects tentative teacher contract

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board last Thursday rejected a tentative teachers contract with the Jefferson County Education Association, much to the dismay of association leaders.

Board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams voted against the agreement because, while it would have granted pay raises to teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective,” it would have also provided raises to teachers rated as “partially effective.”

Teachers rated “ineffective” would not have gotten raises.

“I can’t accept this (agreement),” Newkirk said before voting.
Board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper both voted yes.
“I had hoped tonight that we would have a 5-0 vote to show that we value our teachers in Jeffco,” Dahlkemper said. “The agreement provides a (salary) increase and no ineffective teachers will receive a raise.”

Amy Weber, Jeffco Public Schools’ director of human resources, estimated that 56 “partially effective” teachers would have received raises under the tentative agreement.

The next step to resolve the differences over the contract is a fact-finding phase since open negotiations and mediation have failed.

“Essentially, each side gets an opportunity to present to the (mutually-agreed upon) fact-finder,” said Jim Branum, Jeffco Public Schools’ attorney. “The fact-finder will (decide) what’s fact and make recommendations.”

According to last year’s negotiated contract, if there are unresolved issues after fact-finding, the board will decide the unresolved issues.

“Jeffco teachers are extremely disappointed in the board majority’s decision as it does a disservice to the 85,000 Jefferson County public-school kids and the hardworking educators of the district,” said John Ford, JCEA president.

The tentative agreement was reached last month between bargaining teams from the district and the teachers union, but hours after reaching a consensus, some board members added the stipulation that teachers rated “partially effective” should not be eligible for raises.

The JCEA presented the original agreement to its members, and it was overwhelmingly approved. The agreement also increased pay for new teachers and kept class sizes the same.

Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union were held in public this year for the first time. The teachers union declared an impasse last month, and negotiations were moved behind closed doors for third-party mediation.