Clear Creek teachers are imploring the school board to provide them a living wage, so they can afford to continue doing what they love and live in the area where they teach.
At the May 16 board meeting, representatives from the Clear Creek County Education Association, which is the teachers union, said if the school board really believed in attracting and retaining the best educators, then it needed to provide the necessary compensation to teachers and staff.
“The current wages don’t match statewide moves nor do they attract or honor educators’ long-standing positions in the district,” Rachel Richardson, a third-grade teacher at King-Murphy Elementary School, told the board.
The board is expected to approve the compensation package that district officials and the CCCEA agree to at its meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at Clear Creek High School, according to the agenda.
At the May 16 meeting, school board members did not respond to the teachers’ comments, though the board met in a closed meeting to continue to discuss teacher and staff wages.
The CCCEA was formed in 2019 to work to improve salaries for all teachers and staff in the school district. Each year for the last several years, teachers have come to the school board to ask for salaries that reflect their professionalism and value to the district.
Superintendent Karen Quanbeck said the bargaining teams from the school district and the CCCEA have agreed on changes to the salary schedule, which includes more salary increases — called step increases — for each year a teacher is in the district and more entry points on the salary schedule. Those changes will cost the district about $500,000, she said, and the district still hopes to be able to afford cost-of-living increases.
“I feel really good about that work,” she said.
In the 2022-23 school year in Clear Creek, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no teaching experience earned $41,322, while the starting salary in Jeffco Public Schools was $50,000. The district has made salary increases a priority since 2016-17, when a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience had a starting salary of $32,000.
A point of contention is how much money the school district has in its reserves that teachers say could be put toward salaries. The union says there’s more money than the school district says there is. Union officials also say the district consistently overbudgets and underspends and a more realistic budget would provide more money for compensation.
“We can no longer sustain the financial sacrifices," Richardson said. “We choose to prioritize working at CCSD over taking care of our own families’ livelihoods.”
Pauline Fisher, a King-Murphy kindergarten teacher, talked about the turnover in staff, especially at the end of the school year at Clear Creek High School and Middle School.
“How do we ensure a cohesive learning environment with so much turnover?” she asked. “The reality is we cannot attract and retain the best educators without better compensation. … It looks like you are not sincere (about improving compensation) when you prioritize spending in other areas.”
Counselor Brian Tracey, who is the CCCEA president, told the board: “The CCCEA firmly believes we have shown you that you have the ability (to increase compensation). Now we hope you have the will.”