Jefferson County

School board chooses fact finding in teacher negotiation process

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Among howls and catcalling from onlookers and tension around the board table, the Jefferson County Board of Education moved to fact finding stage of negotiations with the Jefferson County Education Association teachers' union on June 5.

In a 3-2 vote by board members John Newkirk, Julie Williams and board president Ken Witt, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreed to May 8 by the JCEA and district's negotiating teams was not approved, moving the process to fact finding. The understanding contained salaries for teachers and district employees.

“The contract states that if we don't complete the mediated agreement, we move to fact finding and that's where we are, and so we'll proceed with fact finding,” Witt said.

“Well, we hope to get an agreement where we're able to compensate the teachers, our effective teachers in the classrooms, and to substantially agree on the items that have been discussed and come up with a plan that best works for this district.”

The agreement was not approved after both Witt and Board Secretary Newkirk cited language disagreements and the lack of performance-based pay reductions for underperforming teachers in the document.

Following that decision, the board did approve an agreement (5-0) with the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA) — including school office staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and maintenance — which incorporated step increases for those employees.

Fact-finding will take the proposed teacher MOU to a third-party neutral source, where it will make findings and possible recommendations to the board. During the process, both parties may delve into the contract, line by line, and present evidence to the fact-finder.

According to the district's Chief Financial Officer, Lorie Gillis, this can be a lengthy process, depending upon the amount of evidence presented. A time frame is yet to be determined.

“Tonight's decision marks the first time ever in the history of Jefferson County Public Schools that a board voted to not ratify a tentative contract agreement with educators after their negotiations team signed off on that agreement,” JCEA President John Ford said in a press release. “Unfortunately, their decision to break with history leaves the future of our negotiations uncertain."

The MOU holds a large percentage of funds currently within the budget. While it's unlikely the fact finding will be completed before the district is required to adopt an annual budget, the board can set a placeholder for compensation.

Throughout the discussion, audience members were calling out, exclaiming 'Sign it' and shouting disapproval of the decision.

While the move is a step in a direction she didn't want to head, Wheat Ridge 5-8 Gifted and Talented Teacher, Lisa Lee, said she's optimistic fact finding may be a direction that will benefit Jeffco's teachers.

“I'm very disheartened at the attitude towards teachers by the board majority, and nothing can take that away. I am heartened by the fact, that it's facts. It's not emotions; it's not vitriol, or political agenda. Facts are unbiased, and the facts are in our favor.”

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PFWAGNER

Most of the rabble-rousers at the meeting were Jeffco teachers and JCEA employees. They really only give a damn about protecting their interests and are paranoid that the new board will tell the union to take a hike.

Hopefully the new superintendent will be more competent than the previous one and will do a much better job of "Building Bright Futures" for ALL Jeffco children.

The JCEA lost the election. Get over it. Or doesn't Jeffco teach what representative democracy is all about in their schools any more?

Friday, June 6, 2014 | Report this
MichaelClark

I was at the meeting. I am a Jeffco taxpayer and voter. I am not a teacher, parent, or employee of Jeffco schools. I voted for Mr. Witt and Mr. Newkirk. I am an independent voter who values fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability. This board has failed to hold true to any of these values.

Mr. Wagner I believe your response is very one-sided. You make a blanket statement that teachers only care about their interests and are paranoid. You have unfairly passed judgement on thousands of people. I talked to at least 200 people who were either parents or concerned community members. It is not only teachers who are worried about how this board is doing business.

I am deeply concerned about how the school board majority has conducted itself. Teachers are not my main concern. I want a board that conducts itself in a professional manner, is fiscally responsible, treats the public with respect, and only takes actions that are in the interests of all of Jeffco's kids and community. So far I have seen them waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, ignore constituents, ignore emails for months at a time, vote against a tentative agreement that their own negotiators signed (a Jeffco first), and violate board policies on numerous occasions.

I have seen several professional and respectful emails that were sent to the board that asked important questions. They deserve a thoughtful and respectful response that answers their questions. Instead of a proper response John Newkirk replied to many of them with, "Members of the Board of Education received a copy of your recent email correspondence and thank you for writing to share your perspective and concerns for the future of Jeffco Public Schools." When someone asks specific questions they deserve specific answers.

At the last board meeting, the board locked the public outside in the pouring rain for hours. They let people in 8 at a time. I was in a room with 30 empty seats. No one was brought to fill these seats for two hours while community members, kids, parents, and teachers were left outside in the rain. No prior board has ever limited public access to the Ed Center like this. How does this show that the board of education values our community? How is this listening to the community?

Mr. Wagner, your jibe about a representative democracy is also disheartening. In America citizens have the right to address elected officials and voice their concerns. Americans have the right to free speech under the 1st Amendment. Thankfully we don't live in a country where it is against the law to speak out against government officials.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Report this
rogerfromco

Mr. Wagner - I agree with Michael Clark and am also 'just a citizen' and have no connection to the union or teachers - just a 21 year resident of Jeffco. Mr. Wagner, you are way off base when you say that rabble-rousers at the meeting were Jeffco teachers and JCEA employees.

I was unable to attend, but watched the entire Board meeting on the live feed. Yes, there were members of the union and teachers there - their contract was being voted on. There were also many "concerned citizens" who are trying to share their concerns with the Board and the Board is tuning them out in favor of the opinion that they were voted into office and no longer need to listen to the whole community, which could not be further from the truth. In my opinion, the new Board majority has taken a stance similar to the extreme fringes of both political parties. That is, you are either with me or against me. This is a dangerous place to be in politics, much less a non-political Board (which this is supposed to be). All 5 members of the board should be soliciting input from the community on changes they are 'considering' and listening to possible alternatives to come up with a community based decision on the best path forward for changes to our County educational system. Divisiveness does not work in politics and it has NO PLACE on a school board.

The actions of the new board members are appalling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Report this
JStansbu

I am a teacher and JCEA member and I have also been a Jeffco parent. I homeschooled my sons for 3 years until I found a traditional school into which I open-enrolled my sons. I believe there is room for improvement Jeffco classrooms and schools. Evaluations for educators are needed and training for it is needed as well. I don’t like it when unions protect bad employees.

With that being said, I don’t think this board majority is acting in an honorable fashion. Not because they have the majority and I don’t like the things upon which they vote. It is the fact that they have the majority and are breaking rules. They don’t need to break the rules, they have a majority. They are playing games based on advice from the lawyer they hired. When they don’t listen to opposing opinions and break rules to not have to listen, it feels like fascism. When they have negotiated a tentative agreement one day, then say they need one more thing added the next, they’re playing games. The item they wanted changed was to have partially effective teachers not get their steps back. The item both parties agreed to was that ineffective teachers only would not get their steps back. I can’t believe the board didn’t have that on their list of negotiating items. This was their game plan; to have a sticking point with which to vote down the tentative agreement. The board has no intention of having a contract with JCEA. It is this game playing that galls me. By the way, it was estimated by the CFO of Jeffco, that 50 teachers would be rated partially effective out of 5500 teachers. This technicality was the reason why they voted down the tentative agreement. This is what they said, but I believe they never had any intention of voting for it. Now they will go to “fact finding” which essentially means they will be (re)negotiating every line item; yet another waste of taxpayers’ money. Their own district advisors told them that this would involve a prolonged process and would prevent them from having a major budget item unresolved by the time the budget was approved for next year. This didn’t seem to bother Mr. Witt or Mr. Newkirk.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Report this
MKPatton

PFWAGNER, I am the parent of a Jeffco graduate, a Jeffco taxpayer, and a Jeffco teacher who belongs to my professional association. I was able to be in the Board Room last Thursday night because a group of my students were being honored for engineering and design work they have done in collaboration with NASA. I am not a "rabble-rouser," nor did I "howl and catcall" from the floor during the meeting. While it goes against my conservative Episcopalian demeanor, I do raise my hands in support of points being made by Board members and public speakers.

You make several derogatory claims about the people who were in the Board Room during the recent Board meeting. While I would bet that you weren't in the room, or even following the live stream online, I don't know that for sure. If you were there, you would have seen many community members, parents, and teachers standing together against the Board majority. You see, most of us who teach in Jeffco are more than just teachers and association members. We are parents of Jeffco students, community volunteers, and members of all political parties who believe strongly in the Board Governance Policy that mandates school board members be non-partisan in their decisions that affect all 84,000+ students in Jeffco. As much as you would like to believe that all teachers who belong to JCEA are just "union thugs," we cannot be pigeon-holed by labels and stereotypes.

You claim that teachers "only give a damn about protecting their interests." Well, let me tell you what interests I am trying to protect:

I am interested in early childhood literacy, which includes the additional reading and writing instruction that full-day kindergarten provides. I teach high school students, but repeated, long-term international studies show that early literacy instruction, especially for students whose socioeconomic status puts them at risk, helps level the playing field for them for the rest of their lives. When I see those kids in my classroom ten years later, I can tell the difference.

I am interested in keeping class sizes small, which allows teachers to spend more time on individualized instruction for students who need it. Currently, class sizes in Jeffco are two or more students higher than the Colorado Dept. of Education recommends.

I am interested in maintaining strong neighborhood schools and giving parents choices, such as option schools and open enrollment.

All three of these interests were listed in the top five priorities by more than 13,000 people who took the Community Budget Survey . . . which Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams ignored when setting the Board's budget priorities.

So you see, PFWAGNER, you are right in that I am at every board meeting to protect my interests, which are concerns I have about students in the classroom and their long-term learning. Don't assume I am a teacher and an association member because of money. It is insulting to any teacher to believe that money is a motivating factor in any decision we make. Yes, I have not received any increase in my salary in five years, and that is humiliating and discouraging. But I am at the Board meetings because I believe the hidden agendas and fiscal irresponsibility of Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams will destroy this district. I do give a damn about the students who walk into my classroom every day, and in protecting their interests, I am protecting my own.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Report this
vjhoward17

I take exception to the remarks made by PF WAGNER. To begin with, people who disagree with a process are not "rabble-rousers" as you so disrespectfully called them. They are voicing an opinion held by many in Jeffco county. The board was shoved down the throats of teachers and parents. The new superintendent was a shoo-in because the board needed someone to side with them, not challenge them. Mr. McMinnee doesn't even have a background that qualifies him for this position. Ms. Stevenson, on the other hand, spent many years in the school system prior to becoming the superintendent. JCEA should not and will not get over it! A democracy allows all people to voice their opinion so I say you, go find another stupid cause. You are out of line on this one. BTW, I lived in Boulder for many years and raised my children there. The school system and the teachers were excellent. I have grandchildren in the school systems in Colorado and their education has been exceptional. The teachers get better and better all the time and deserve to be treated in an honorable way.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | Report this
PFWAGNER

My, my, my....hit a cord there.

Here's all you really need to know about the JCEA and Jeffco's past performance of "Building Bright Futures." There is not a single school in Jeffco with even the District's average of minority or poor kids that has received a John Irwin Award for excellence. EVER. With one exception - and that was a Montessori charter school in its first year of operation - none have received the Governor's improvement award either . EVER.

Let's see if all you naysayer, teachers, "concerned parents" and JCEA employees can address that.

So much for "Building Bright Futures." Or does that mean only for the white and upper class residents of Jeffco?

Hopefully the new board and superintendent will rectify that aspect of Jeffco's poor performance but most of you who replied don't want to give them a chance. WHY? I thought you were "for the children?"

If fixing the disparity in education involves getting rid of the lying "we're for the children" union, then so be it.

As for "paranoid" I said the teachers were paranoid that was going to happen. I did not say the teacher's were paranoid - although based on some of the comments and actions I've seen at the board meetings I wouldn't rule it out.

And as for charter schools, if they can do a better job of educating, especially for minority and poor children, and provide more educational choices and opportunities, like STEM, at a lower cost then we should have MORE charter schools. I'm sure all you Jeffco taxpayers and "concerned for the children" folks would be all for that. Oh, I forgot..they're NON-union schools.

Finally, behaving in an unprofessional way and throwing a hissy fit at a Jeffco Board meeting because the voters went against the union was what is appalling. While some of you responders may not have participated in the howling, catcalling, shouting,derogatory statements, and other disruptions it is an absolute fact that it is happening and the ones doing it are teachers, and JCEA members who LOST the election and who are now trying to implement THEIR way undemocratically in a bullying fashion, you know, rabble-rousers.

Saturday, June 21, 2014 | Report this
PFWAGNER

vjhoward17:

If you really believe that "The board was shoved down the throats of teachers and parents" through a democratic process called an "election" them you are representative of the problem.

I will bet you never had any problems when the previous superintendent sided with the JCEA controlled board and never challenged them.

The people did "voice" their opinion. They threw out the union hacks on the Jeffco board that were up for election which then resulted in the incompetent superintendent throwing a hissy fit and resigning without even trying to work with the new board and the people who elected them.

Since you have grandchildren and Jeffco has open enrollment transfers, try moving them into one of Jeffco's many educational gulags and then tell me how great the teachers and Jeffco school systems is.

Saturday, June 21, 2014 | Report this
jeffcoschools

Some of Jeffco's Title I schools and other schools with a high-poverty rate have claimed the John Irwin Schools of Excellence award, along with receiving the Governor's Distinguished Improvement Award.

In 2013, Edgewater and Stein elementary schools won the Colorado Governor's Distinguished Improvement Award.

In 2012, Edgewater also won the Colorado Governor's Distinguished Improvement Award.

Stein Elementary has also won the Colorado Department of Education's Centers of Excellence Award in 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. Deane won the award in 2011 and 2009.

thanks - Jeffco Schools

Thursday, June 26, 2014 | Report this
Migrant

JCEA members call themselves a 'professional organization" but those misdirected and misled educators display behavior that is anything but professional. As a stakeholder in the Jeffco School System, I am embarrassed because my taxes are paying those disrespectful teachers who disrupt what should be a safe and orderly process. Those who profess to be professional educators are setting a poor example for the students. Would any of those self-proclaimed 'professionals' allow the students in their classroom who disagree with them to blurt out howls and catcalls? Those so called 'educators' are modeling terrible behavior for the children they teach. I agree with the sentiments expressed by PFWAGNER.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Report this