After five months of contract negotiations, Jeffco teachers will have an agreement in place when they show up to work on Monday, but one teacher and union negotiator echoed the sentiments of many …
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After five months of contract negotiations, Jeffco teachers will have an agreement in place when they show up to work on Monday, but one teacher and union negotiator echoed the sentiments of many district educators, calling the 10-month duration “insulting.”The Jefferson County Education Association signed a temporary agreement accepting the 2015-2016 collective bargaining contract at an Aug. 6 negotiation session. Key interests in the negotiations included educating the whole child, having effective teachers in the classrooms, retaining school-level autonomy, and optimizing teacher instructional time and scheduling. Compromises include improving collaborative planning and decision-making regarding class sizes, instituting provisions designed to ensure that performance drives pay increases, updating the evaluation process to align with the state's educator effectiveness requirements, and increasing the number of full-time digital librarians.The contract must still be ratified by the union, which will review and vote on the 45-page document at a membership meeting on Aug. 21 at the Jeffco Fairgrounds. The current contract expires on Aug. 31.“When we started the process a long time ago, we set out to reach an agreement,” said Arik Heim, union negotiator and a Wheat Ridge High School social studies teacher. “I think, for the most part, the bulk of the agreement is something good and good for education...”“It's not a perfect agreement by any stretch,” said school district negotiator Jim Branum, “but it is the best possible agreement.”One point of contention is the agreement's 10-month span, Sept. 1 through June 30, 2016. Many teachers and union members hoped for longer-term security.“We accepted it because we believe in doing what's best for students and putting the time in to create the best learning conditions for students — that was always our driving force,” said Stephanie Rossi, a JCEA negotiator and teacher at Wheat Ridge High School. “The 10-month agreement — it's insulting. … We would have preferred to have a three-year agreement to have some stability for our effective educators in Jeffco.”JCEA membership accounts for approximately 3,500 of the district's 5,400 teachers, or about 65 percent. A simple majority must approve the contract, or it will go back to the bargaining table. If members ratify the agreement, the contract will be presented to the Jeffco Schools Board of Education at its Aug. 27 meeting for final approval.“This innovative contract is a result of nearly 150 hours at the negotiating table by the negotiating team as well as a commitment to collaboration by the JCEA and Jeffco School Board,” said Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee in a press release following the Aug. 6 meeting. “While both sides compromised on contract components, we believe this agreement is good for Jeffco students and Jeffco teachers. I am looking forward to its implementation during this next school year.”
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