Board balks, imperiling pact with teachers

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Added condition on raises could torpedo agreement

By Daniel Laverty

An apparent agreement between Jeffco Public Schools and the teachers union is now less than certain after school board members quickly requested changes in the pact.

Bargaining teams for the school district and the Jeffco Education Association reached a tentative agreement last Thursday night on raises for teachers and other items in the contract. But the district stipulated later that non-probationary teachers rated as not effective or partially effective would not be eligible for raises.

The original agreement reached Thursday included:

• An average 2.5 percent increase in salary for teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” in their evaluations.

• An increase in starting pay for new teachers.

• No increase in employee health-care premiums for the next school year.

• Class sizes remaining the same.

• An agreement to work on a new compensation plan for the next contract

The union apparently sent the original pact, without the change from the board, to its members. 

“The district believes it is important to differentiate in terms of compensation between the vast majority of teachers who are rated effective and the small number of teachers who haven’t met that standard,” said school board President Ken Witt. “I hope JCEA will be thoughtful in only taking an agreement to its members for ratification that at the end of the day we, as a board, can support.”

JCEA president Ami Prichard said she would continue the process and present the original agreement to JCEA members for approval. Voting started Monday and will close Thursday.

“The bottom line is, Ken Witt is attempting to renegotiate the tentative agreement the negotiating teams already agreed to (Thursday),” Prichard said.

“In mediation Thursday, the district negotiations team was on the phone with members of the board all day during this process. At the end of the day, an agreement was reached by both parties and signed.”

If JCEA members approve the original agreement, it will go back to the board for approval. It is unknown how the board would vote without the requested change in the contract.

“The reality is that the board majority never gave their bargaining team the proper information and authority to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement,” Prichard said.

The negotiated terms would be in effect from July 1, 2014, until June 30, 2015, which is when the contract expires. The JCEA had wanted to extend the contract for another three years.

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. Thursday was the first day of mediation.

Jeffco teachers have not had cost-of-living pay raises in four years. The current contract between the district and the teachers union expires in August 2015.