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Ending performance pay would cost $3.5 million

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Issue surfaces in contract talks with teachers

By Gabrielle Porter

Ending the controversial policy that links teacher pay to performance evaluations — a hallmark of the conservative school board majority that was recalled last November — would initially cost $3.5 million, the Jeffco school district’s human resources chief said last Thursday.

The possibility of returning teacher pay levels to a uniform salary schedule was raised during the district’s contract negotiations with the Jefferson County Education Association, district human resources chief Amy Weber said. The current model, implemented in September 2014 by former board members John Newkirk, Ken Witt and Julie Williams, was a point of contention that contributed to the trio’s recall.

Weber told school board members that if the district returns to awarding raises based on experience and education, teachers’ pay would have to be moved to the nearest point on the scale to their current salaries without cutting pay.

“(Funds) would not be spent equally across teachers, because any given teacher may take more or less to get into the closest box …,” Weber said. “I know we all wish there were more dollars to apply to it — it would make it simpler — but there isn’t.”

The district and the teachers union opened contract talks Feb. 6 and will meet after spring break to discuss the pay model and examine whether additional raises for teachers would be possible in addition to the uneven raises that would accompany a return to a salary schedule.

The school district is still waiting to learn how much money it will receive from the state for the 2016-17 school year. Weber said the negotiating teams will discuss not only the structure of the proposed pay plan but whether across-the-board raises will be possible.

Weber also said negotiators have agreed to shift the timeline of the negotiated agreement so that during years when the contract expires, it ends in August. The decision reverses another change that was made by the conservative board, which shifted contract terms to run coincident with the school year.

The duration of the contract under negotiation hasn’t yet been set, Weber said, but “we anticipate that it will be a multi-year term.” Leaders of the Jeffco Education Association have asked for a three-year pact.

School board members didn’t take any firm positions on the ongoing contract talks, but board member Brad Rupert told the district’s negotiating team that staff said teacher leave policies have had major impacts on school budgets when substitutes are needed.

“It really does have a budget impact. We can either steer compensation to the educators, which is where I’d really like to steer it … but if we have to steer money to other places because of leave requests — I’d rather not do that,” Rupert said.

Negotiations between the district and the JCEA are scheduled to last through early May.

Contact Gabrielle Porter at gabrielle@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter at @gabyreport.