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Jeffco school employees say they’re underpaid: But most think they are effective at work

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco Public Schools' employees generally believe they are effective in their jobs, feel safe at work and have positive relationships with their supervisors, according to a recent survey.

But the workers surveyed, which included teachers, staff and administrators, continue to feel they are not paid fairly for the work they do and aren't paid according to market value.

The 2008-09 Jeffco Public Schools Employee Opinion Survey, conducted by Chicago-based research and marketing firm LCWA Research Group, was completed by 7,700 district employees in the fall of 2008. The survey builds on research from fall 2000, fall 2002 and fall 2006.

"Almost all items that comprise the performance factors receive significantly higher scores compared to 2006," LCWA wrote in its summary of the results. "These results are impressive, particularly considering that most performance items declined significantly from 2002 to 2006 after having shown improvement from 2000 to 2002."

Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said she first saw the survey results at the beginning of April.

"I loved it," she said. "I thought it was an April fools joke."

Questions related to how employees evaluated their own effectiveness were the district's top-performing area. Stevenson said the high effectiveness scores speak to the quality of the district's employees.

"When you look at those numbers, it speaks to the ethics or the work in our organization," she said. "You're really looking at people who believe in the work they're doing."

Stevenson said proof of the teachers’ effectiveness came in the form of the recently released third-grade reading scores in preliminary results in the Colorado Student Assessment Program.

Jeffco's score of 80 percent proficient and just 5 percent unsatisfactory was the district's best in five years. The district came in fourth in the metro area, behind the Boulder Valley School District, Douglas County and Littleton. The statewide average was 73 percent proficient.

In the survey’s “supervision” category, all 14 questions received more favorable responses than in 2006, when all the questions received less favorable scores than in 2002.

But the “rewards” category, with five questions dealing with pay and benefits, showed the least-favorable scores.

When asked if they considered themselves to be paid fairly when compared to their level of responsibility, employees gave the district a score of 2.94 out of 5. When asked if they are paid fairly when compared to their colleagues in other school districts, they gave the district a 3 out of 5.

Stevenson said the district does compare pay with other large districts in the state.

"In Jefferson County, our beginning teachers are below the average," Stevenson said. "Our most experienced teachers are above the average. Our administrators are comparable, and we try to stay within the range of other districts."

Stevenson said those low scores may get worse by fall 2010, the next time the survey will go out to employees.

"I'd love to say the scores will keep going up, and we'll certainly work for that," Stevenson said. "In the meantime, we have budget issues and have to deal with staff reductions. There's going to be more work for everybody who's left."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.