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Jeffco teachers, district reach agreement

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association have reached a tentative agreement that guarantees a 2.7 percent pay increase and $1.4 million to help teachers with "workload issues."

The deal also promises a 0.9 percent increase in the district's contribution to the Public Employees' Retirement Association. An additional 0.5 percent salary increase is promised if the district gets a mill-levy increase passed in November.

The 2.7 percent cost-of-living increase will begin Sept. 1.

The contract has to be ratified by the school board and JCEA members.

The $1.4 million in workload assistance money will provide $10,000 per school "to use for paraprofessional support or other strategies that will help teachers manage an increased level of responsibility," according to a statement from the district.

"We are pleased with the deal," said Nancy Henderson, president of the teachers union. "We are fully mindful of the district's financial status right now. This puts the district and us in a good position for the future."

Henderson said the additional 0.5 percent was part of what the union originally sought, and that the union was amenable to making it contingent on a tax increase.

"The teachers are supportive of the district asking the community again to bring more resources into the school district," Henderson said. "It's definitely time. We have a lot of good positive momentum, and in a year or two we will have to be making cuts."

Henderson said the tone of the negotiations was "more collaborative than in the past," and that interest-based bargaining was used.

"Both sides tell their stories, list their interests around certain issues and try to problem-solve through those issues," Henderson said.

"I think it's a very fair settlement," said Cindy Stevenson, superintended of Jeffco Public Schools. "We all know the world of education is different than it used to be: More is expected of teachers; more is expected of the organization." Stevenson also credited interest-based negotiations as the key to "very amicable" negotiations.

Stevenson said the district and the Board of Education are in the data-gathering process to determine if a bid for a mill-levy increase will go before voters in November.

Stevenson said that the 2.7 percent cost-of-living increase — with a potential of 3.2 percent if the tax increase is successful — is reasonable for the Denver area.

"We are in the market with the other school districts with whom we compete," Stevenson said.