Jeffco teachers have a new long-term contract, but unrest remains

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Nicholas Garcia on June 3, 2016

The Jefferson County school board on Thursday approved a long-term deal with the school district’s teachers union, which includes $10.4 million in pay increases for the next academic year.

The five-year contract comes as no surprise to observers. This school board was elected by wide margins in November’s high-profile election. That vote was headlined by the successful recall of three conservative board members who were at odds with the county’s teacher union, the Jefferson County Education Association, over teacher pay.

The recall effort and the victors were bankrolled in large part by local, state and national teachers unions.

But it remains unclear whether the new deal will ease educator unrest in Jeffco.

According to a new survey released at the same board meeting, fewer than half of all Jeffco Public Schools employees — including teachers, administrators and support staff — reported a healthy work climate.

Only 49 percent of survey respondents said they felt “encouraged to use their own professional judgment to get the job done.”

Less than 40 percent said Jeffco schools managed change effectively.

And 43 percent of employees said the district valued creativity.

The new school board got high marks, however. About 82 percent of employees said the school board was leading the district effectively. But only half of the respondents said the same about Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who was hired by the three ousted school board members.

About 56 percent of all Jeffco employees took the online survey between April and May.

Despite the concerns spotlighted in the survey — teacher training and evaluations received little praise — nearly nine out of every 10 employee responded said they planned to stay with the district.

So the question remains: What more does Jeffco need to do to make its teachers feel happy and supported?

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Photo credit: Nicholas Garcia


  1. A 1% pay increase in 8 years? Come on Nick. It’s an insult. $10.4 million is a grand number, but to leave it lumped is misleading. Break it down to an hourly rate, and you’ll find that some, for example, oh-holy-of-holies-Math teachers gained $0.38 per hour, pre-tax. What rhetorical question is it you asked, again?

    And to some who would question whether a happy teacher makes a difference. Yes, taxes make the system run. Do you want happy, secure employees or unhappy employees? Secure employees equals secure customers: analogous to secure teachers to secure (prepared) students. Don’t major corporations, to which some privatizers often compare the school systems, work hard to keep their employees happy? On this, is there a difference? Once upon a time there was a village. In the village was a stone building and in the stone building were rows of maple benches, nailed to the floor. Now, on those benches a wide range of young children sit, up right and disciplined, ready to practice their daily lessons. The woman (or man) at the head of the, class shall we say, is brought an apple every day, and did that given gift ever shine,
    And wasn’t there, then, time to play,
    Every day, in some way,
    And, note, the teacher, shall we say,
    Grateful for the simple act,
    Wears her bonnet somewhat higher,
    Thankful for one villager’s tact,
    And does she much more lovingly greet
    The boisterous boys with shoeless feet,
    The serious girls with ebony curls,
    And willingly stoke the meager fire,
    And did she leave more in the plate,
    And won’t she her wards’ prospects elevate,
    Because the apple though tortured,
    Was brought without expectation, from the common orchard?
    I ask you.

    How will those employees feel supported? When their meager pensions aren’t jacked-with by lawmakers who get the same pension; teachers work a heckuva lot harder than our greedy bozos who defer everything to voters. Eight years of a pay freeze? With a 1% uptick? Creates a heck of a lot of need later on. Pay me now or pay me later, greedy ALEC law-makers…

    How will they feel supported? When the failures of students are pinned on the correct backs–namely their own and their parents’. And while accountability is correctly assigned, they should stop testing kids in primary school because it’s unethical and demoralizing and lines the test corporations’ pockets because it puts little kids on their heels when they’re not even ready to read because they’re not developmentally ready to read and will dislike reading for the rest of the academic lives and will thumb their noses at their teachers, their bosses and their society. Over-tested kids are on their academic heels for the rest of their lives because of the way they were made to feel stupid when they were young, young children. Good plan, if you’re Pearson or McGraw Hill (or ALEC-looper).

    And to test teens on high-stakes testing the last weeks of the school year is to fry them even more–how abhorrently unethical is this practice? And to say the teacher should be held accountable for the 20-ish kids who are so toasted and so done with school at that point, that they don’t care– the kids intentionally sabotaging results–no hype. I’ll bet you a $1.25 that these middle school saboteurs are the same ones who were prematurely and over-tested in kindergarten.

    Which rhetorical question are you asking again? When will they feel supported? When teaching is respected and fully supported, financially, materially, emotionally, and socially, when authority and accountability are rebalanced between families and schools, when teachers’ voices matter in matters of children and learning, when public schools are constructed as community schools: strong financially, strong socially, when budgeting is transparent, when the computing devices in the classroom aren’t seven years old, when library spaces aren’t taken over for testing labs, when kids take the state test online, having had a whopping two weeks of keyboarding instruction in second grade, when broken cabinets with missing doors and jacked-up drawers are replaced, when there’s more time to teach and less time to test, when acts of violence in the school building aren’t pinned to the back of the teacher, when a teacher who commits a an act is held to the same statute of innocent before proven guilty (see CDE), when the threat of legislation forcing them to arm themselves in a classroom isn’t lorded over them by people with a lot of money and big fat connections to the NRA, when the nation’s obesity epidemic isn’t blamed on the schools, when malnutrition isn’t exacerbated by federal policies that make healthy school food too expensive to buy! when the humanities regain equal footing with STEM, because STEM gets more money and social approval while English language arts is tested tested tested but is underfunded in the form of large class sizes, when…when…

    Gosh Nicholas maybe you should step foot into a classroom for a week or two, (stick it out for a month and I’ll personally pay you, heck, a $1.25 an hour) and see how it goes, before you continue to raise the questions you raise about satisfaction–my god.

    When will teachers be satisfied? When public schools are kept as public institutions, and mask-wearing privatization “reformers” including the ones (in ALEC) at the helm of our partially-effective state government, are kicked out once and for all; teachers in the Denver metro area are preparing for another fight for their schools this coming school year. Perhaps our legislature should be evaluated with the same unreliable evaluation system that teachers must bear.

    And Nick you also fail to point out that the district employee survey was conducted BEFORE the ratification of the contract and BEFORE the passing of it at the board meeting. Is it any wonder that teachers felt insecure when taking the survey? Your inaccurate narrative sequence is misleading.

    JeffCo teachers’ email addresses are linked to their survey responses. There is fear of retribution, whether folks want to admit it or not, if a teacher is critical and honest about conditions in her schools. Which leads me to ask, why aren’t you interested in the TELL survey results? Last year they were scathing, across the district.

    It leads me to ask YOU Nick what will make JeffCo teachers happy? perhaps a consistent ally in the media.

    56% of employees includes only a portion of teachers. But what portion of the 56 were teachers? The way you lump teaching issues of training and evaluation with all-employee issues of intention to stay with the district is fallacious, and misleading.

    What will make teachers happy? Shall I continue? Because I could, easily. If your journalistic intentions are to keep the conversation going, Nick, please present the employee survey more comprehensively and accurately? This is your responsibility.

    What will make JeffCo teachers happy?
    Provisions for the schools our students deserve:
    1. wherein all voices matter.
    2. wherein schools are safe and welcoming.
    3. where in teaching is high-quality, respected, and supported.
    4. wherein students learn more and teachers test less.
    5. wherein public schools are strong and anchored to the community.
    6. wherein the public schools are PUBLIC institutions.

  2. Justin,
    The recall included concerns about lack of transparency (with budgeting) which included the jacked-up compensation system which would have rewarded a dice-roll of teachers using an unreliable evaluation system. IOW no inter-rater reliability. Do you know what that is?

    While I complain to Nick about the $10.4 million, this new raise IS spread to all teachers, not just a few, who, again, may have reached the mysterious Highly-Effective or Effective rating, using an unreliable evaluation system.

    What kind of raise did JEFFCO teachers get after those three people stole the 2009 mil money that was supposed to compensate ALL teachers (despite the controversial equalization)? These are the public servants who agreed to take a pay cut in 2008 to prevent the cuts from affecting the children? (They claimed they didn’t have to honor promises made by previous boards). Most teachers got a slap In the face. That’s what, Justin. $1.11 per day, pre-tax. Wow.

    Justin, how many board meetings did you attend?

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