A handful of Jefferson County’s veteran public school teachers met outside Green Mountain High School today to welcome incoming teachers at the district’s induction day – a new employee training. The long-timers handed out flyers inviting the newbies to an afternoon get-together put on by the Jefferson County Education Association, the teacher’s union.
First, security showed up and told the veteran teachers to get off the premises. When they didn’t, the police arrived and threatened to arrest the teachers for trespassing on school grounds. Eventually, the district’s lawyer came out and negotiated with the union a small piece of school property the teachers were confined to.
“They don’t want teachers talking to teachers, I guess,” said Scott Kwasny, the communications and field operations director of the JCEA.
Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s explanation of the incident to The Colorado Independent: “I don’t know if it was the teachers union or any of that. There was a group of people at Green Mountain High School this morning who were confused about where they could be on our campus handing things out.”
Apparently, McMinimee didn’t recognize that the “confused” people were his longstanding employees.
“Pieces of paper is what I understood they were handing out,” he said. What was on those pieces of paper, he did not know.
In past years, the JCEA has presented workshops and provided lunch during the district’s induction day. But this year, with a voter recall of three school board members in the works, contract negotiations underway and rumblings about a potential strike, relationships between the district and the union have broken down.
Kwasny said this year the JCEA was no longer welcome to provide lunch at the event and that the union’s workshops were cancelled.
As McMinimee tells it, the union was welcome to the event and had a table just like Kaiser Permanente and a credit union. “They were treated just like any other group that was going to work with our teachers,” he said.
Except that staff from Kaiser Permanente and the credit union weren’t threatened with arrest.
Kwasny said the outreach was “about veteran teachers welcoming new teachers to the district and building community, which is critical to our schools’ culture and the success of students at Jeffco. My question to the district would be why do they want to ban teachers from talking to and welcoming their new colleagues.”
“We recognize that we’re in some different times in Jefferson County right now,” McMinimee answered. “And we want to make sure our teachers have a focus on working with students that very first day of school.”
Photo courtesy of Scott Kwasny