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School district approves agreements with employee unions

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By Sal Christ

Jeffco Public Schools has reached and approved a contract agreement with its teachers union after several months of negotiations.

Formally approved by the Jeffco school board May 4, the agreement with the Jeffco Education Association specifies that all teachers will “move one step on the salary schedule” and those who have earned additional education such as a master’s degree will also “be granted lane advancement.” In addition, the district will cover a 0.5 percent increase in teachers’ monthly contributions to the Colorado Public Employee’s Retirement Association, known as PERA.

The agreement, which adds on to the five-year contract approved by the school board last year, also includes a cost-of-living increase of up to 2 percent and allows for increased collaboration between teachers and principals, as well as between schools and the district — a key feature of this year’s negotiations.

Commenting on the negotiations process, schools board members said they felt the agreement came out of a “collaborative environment” and that the district made progress in paying teachers more competitive wages.

“Thank you to both negotiating teams,” said board President Ron Mitchell. “This is shared work, and it is important to us that we can do this collaboratively. … I think it’s been well-stated that we are not necessarily where we’d love to be in terms of our salary schedules, but we have made some progress in the right direction. … I think we can be proud of the progress. We’re not done and we’re not satisfied, but as a board I believe we have done what we can do for this year.”

Fellow board member Brad Rupert also highlighted the collaborative nature of the negotiations and said that the negotiations were ultimately for the “benefit of our children.”

While the school board expressed satisfaction with the process and resulting agreement, some teachers felt it was a mixed bag.

“We were certainly happy with the process,” said Paula Reed, a longtime Columbine High School teacher. “We felt the district was really willing to collaborate with us. Certainly, people were hoping to see the 4 percent increase from last year stay and a COLA increase on top of that, but that didn’t happen with the failure of 3A and 3B in November.”

While Reed praised the process, as well as changes to teacher workloads and increased opportunities for collaboration between educators and administrators, she said the district needs to work harder at increasing teacher pay instead of “asking teachers to make up that deficit.”

The school board also approved an agreement on May 4 with the Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association, the district’s classified employees union; that agreement also provides for salary step increases, coverage of the increased PERA contribution, a cost-of-living increase of up to 2 percent and increases the rate of snow premium pay to $15 per hour.

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1035.