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Teachers, district to resume contract talks

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Negotiations stalled over length of new contract

By Gabrielle Porter

Negotiators for the Jeffco school district and the teachers union will head back to the bargaining table this week after a disagreement over the contract’s length stalled bargaining for more than three weeks.

Representatives of the two sides, which are more than five months into negotiating a new contract, walked out of the last bargaining session July 15 without agreeing on the length of the contract. The Jefferson County Education Association wants a three-year contract guaranteed for teachers, while Jeffco Public Schools wants to limit the contract to 10 months.

The groups agreed to meet again at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Union members asked the district to invite school board members to the bargaining table to hash out the issue. The district team has refused, and it doesn’t seem likely that any board members will be present Thursday.

JCEA spokesman Scott Kwasny said he’s not sure whether any board members will attend the meeting.

“We’re hoping that someone will be there, but I’m not sure …,” he said. “We agreed to engage in interest-based bargaining, which means that both parties put their interests on the table, and you work to meet the interests of both parties”

The duration of the contract has become the last major issue of this year’s bargaining sessions. Jim Branum, an attorney for the district, said at the July 15 meeting that renegotiating the contract next year makes sense because the terms have changed dramatically as a result of the current negotiations.

The proposal for a 10-month agreement also would realign teachers’ contracts to end with the school year and the district’s fiscal calendar. In the past, contracts have run through the end of the summer.

JCEA executive director Lisa Elliott said the union sees a three-year contract as a compromise, given that contracts historically have covered four years. Elliott also said if the district sticks to its demand for a 10-month pact, the union migth want to renegotiate other parts of the contract.

The JCEA’s entire contract is set to expire Aug. 31, and the two sides have completely revamped the pact, cutting out major swaths of language and reducing the entire document’s language by nearly two-thirds — the current contract runs to 110 pages, while the draft version of the new contract is only 40. Teacher raises have been the most significant disagreement so far, although the JCEA preliminarily agreed to pay compromises in mid-June.

Contact Gabrielle Porter at gabrielle@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.