GOLDEN — Jeffco Public Schools teachers will continue to work under their 2013 compensation plan after the board of education here rejected the recommendations of a third party to provide salary bumps for teachers rated “partly effective.”
Instead, teachers will receive retroactive pay increases later this fall after the Jeffco Board of Education settles the compensation matter at a later date.
The board’s 3-2 majority blocked a resolution to accept the recommendations of the third party fact-finder that suggested teachers who were rated “partly effective” under the district’s evaluation system be given raises. The fact-finder also recommended that the district and teachers union improve the teacher evaluation tool that they said was not statistically reliable.
Because the board rejected the recommendations from the fact-finder, the final compensation system will be determined by the five-member elected body, as outlined in the district’s collective bargaining agreement. Given the conservative and free-market tendencies of the board’s majority, that could mean a radical shift in how teachers are paid.
During the board’s discussion of the fact finder’s report, board chairman Ken Witt presented his own compensation proposal, which surprised some board members, district staff, and board observers.
Witt’s proposal, characterized as “a lot” by Jeffco Public Schools’ chief financial officer Lorie Gillis, calls for every teacher to make at least $38,000 per year. The current base salary for a first year Jeffco teachers is $33,616.
Further, Witt also recommended compensation be increased based on the most recent employee evaluation ratings. Every “effective” and “highly effective” Jeffco teacher would receive a compensation increase, and “highly effective” teachers would receive a compensation increase that is at least 50 percent higher than the compensation increase of “effective” teachers.
Gillis, who said she had only seen the proposal for the first time tonight, told the board her team would need time to crunch all the numbers.
Jefferson County Education Association executive director Lisa Elliott said she was “flabbergasted” by Witt’s proposal.
“This board majority knows exactly what they’re going to do,” Elliott said earlier in the evening during an interview with Chalkbeat. “They’re just walking through the steps.”
The majority — comprised of Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams — said they rejected the recommendation of the fact-finder because his suggestions were not in line with the district’s goal of having an effective teacher in every classroom.
Additionally, the three continued to raise fundamental concerns that the current pay structure for Jeffco teachers — generally based on a teacher’s number of years in the classroom — was unfair and not competitive.
“We need to explore making pay for new teachers more aggressive to competitive,” Newkirk said.
Minority members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted to approve the recommendations, repeatedly citing the report’s claim that the teacher evaluation tool is unreliable.
“There’s a lot of questions marks,” Dahlkemper said.
Dahlkemper and Fellman also indicated their desire to move beyond the contract negotiations, which they said have had the unintended byproduct of sowing fear and mistrust between many of the district’s teachers and board majority.
The teacher evaluation system has been in place since 2008 and was created by the district and union together. However, this would be the first year teachers’ evaluation ratings would be tied to compensation across the district. The district has piloted a pay-for-performance model at 20 schools.
Salaries for teachers have been frozen since 2010. Teachers agreed to the salary freezes as the district weathered budget cuts from the Great Recession.
The current negotiations are only about annual compensation. The district’s and union’s full agreement expires in 2015.
According to the union, this is the first time the Jeffco Public Schools’ Board of Education has rejected either an arbitrator or fact finder’s recommendation during contract negotiations.