Pay Day! May Day!

Jeffco board majority OKs tentative compensation plan for teachers

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Jefferson County teachers wait for an elevator outside the district's board chambers after the Board of Education approved a tentative compensation model that abandons the traditional structure based on time and education.

GOLDEN — The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education tonight approved a loosely-defined teacher compensation model tied to the results of teacher evaluations that still have plenty of kinks to iron out.

Little is still known about exactly what the new model means for teachers, who have been working under salary freezes for several years.

And because the new model is a complete abandonment of the suburban school district’s status quo, a specific date when teachers will see their promised increases is unknown at this time.

The board’s vote came just a week after board chairman Ken Witt proposed the model. District staff worked hurriedly to crunch the numbers, which staff warned could change as more information is provided to the board.

“These numbers really will change,” said Lorie Gillis, Jeffco’s chief financial officer.

What is known at this time:

  • The base salary for teachers, which is currently about $33,000, will be raised to $38,000
  • Last year’s teacher evaluations will determine bonuses
  • Probationary teachers, those still in the first three years of teaching, who received a “partly-effective” rating will receive a 1 percent raise
  • Teachers who received an “effective” rating will receive a 2.43 percent raise
  • Teachers who received a “highly effective” rating will receive a 4.25 percent raise
  • All raises, regardless of when they are finalized, will be retroactive to the start of the school year

By comparison, had the school board accepted a tentative agreement reached last spring by the district and the Jefferson County Education Association, the average teacher would have received a 2.8 percent raise.

Among the issues that still need to be worked out include where the district will cut off raises, how the district will determine the starting salaries of veteran teachers who join the district each year, and what other factors the board might consider for pay raises.

The board and staff must also determine whether student data will be considered as part of the evaluation that determines pay increases and how the model will affect the district’s budget in future years.

“This makes sense to me,” Witt said.

But teachers in the board chambers were left scratching their heads.

“I don’t know,” said Lei Lani, an instructional coach at Campbell Elementary School, when asked how the board’s decision might affect her pay.

Lani, who has two graduate degrees, said her extra education allowed her to be paid more than some of her peers. But she’s concerned the new pay plan won’t take her degrees into account.

“It’s probably going to help,” she said. “But I really want to know how its going to impact my fellow teachers.”

Lani hopes she hears from the district soon.

But district staff is working through the motions just as much as teachers.

“This is going to be very complicated,” said Amy Weber, the district’s chief human resources officer, during an interview Thursday night. “Payroll needs to be done very carefully. This is a completely new way to do pay.”

Board member Jill Fellman Thursday night said one of the reasons she could not support the new model was because it was not created with teachers at the table.

“We need to be very clear — this your model, Mr. Witt,” Fellman said.

Thursday’s vote comes after the board majority — made up of Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk — rejected the findings of an independent review that suggested the board should agree to a tentative agreement reached by the district and union last spring that included pay raises for teachers who were considered “partly effective.”

Kerrie Dallman, president of the state’s largest teachers union, said her organization is prepared to stand with the local union, which is considering a lawsuit.

“It is being discussed,” she said. “JCEA will do everything possible to ensure their members’ rights under the collective bargaining agreement will be upheld. And The CEA will be ready to support them in whatever decision they’re prepared to make.”

The unions contract with the district ends this school year.

Thursday’s board room audience was noticeably smaller than in previous months. That’s because, some said, teachers were out knocking on doors throughout the county sharing their feelings about the board’s majority.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect only those teachers who are both on probation in their first three years of and have been rated as partly effective will get a one percent raise. 

This article has also been updated to clarify pay raises for teachers, once finalized, will be retroactive to the start of the school year.

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How Jeffco’s pick for superintendent changed his mind about education reform

Jason Glass, the sole finalist for the superintendent position in Jeffco Public Schools, toured Arvada High School last week. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

When Jason Glass was recruited to oversee more than 300 Iowa school districts as the state’s director of education, he was known for his work in Colorado’s Eagle County tying teacher pay to student performance.

The Republican governor who appointed Glass in Iowa called him a “reform-minded leader” and put him to work to explore similar models for Iowa’s teachers.

Over time, both while in Iowa and after returning to serve as superintendent of Eagle County Schools, Glass changed some of his thoughts on education reform. He said it happened while he was looking at education systems around the world and found that many of the popular reforms in the U.S. “were not a strong ingredient” in other systems around the world. Addressing student needs was, he said.

“Unless you’re doing something to impact poverty, you’re really not changing outcomes,” Glass said. “It changed my focus.”

Glass’s views are front and center as he is set to take on a more prominent role as the next superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, the state’s second largest school district. Pending contract negotiations and a final vote Tuesday night, he will begin the role July 1.

Glass was the sole finalist of a school board that won election with support from a coalition that included well-connected parents and the teachers union.

In Eagle County, Glass is admired by the local union. He said he no longer believes in performance pay for teachers, but advocates for other ways to pay teachers other than under traditional models. He’s been critical of testing in Colorado. He believes charter schools should meet high bars, including showing quality in instruction.

“I’m most interested in getting something done,” Glass said. “That can take on different forms.”

Jeffco board members who picked Glass as sole finalist for the job praised his ability to work with different people, his work on rolling out a biliteracy seal in his district to encourage bilingual students and for “doing his homework” on Jeffco’s master plan.

The Jeffco board launched a national search earlier this spring to find a new leader.

The last superintendent, Dan McMinimee, was hired by a previous school board in a majority decision by three conservative board members who were later recalled. Three of the five current school board members are up for re-election this November.

“I really admire this board,” Glass said. “It took a lot of courage for them to run.”

Even before officially starting, Glass has been meeting groups of staff and visiting schools. On Thursday, he visited Arvada High School, where two students gave him a tour of the school and told him about the programs they say make their school great.

Glass was quiet, mostly listening to the students and asking occasional questions.

He said he won’t start work in Jeffco with an agenda.

“I’m going to spend a few months working on that relationship-building to really understand the decisions that have been made and the context,” Glass said. “From that point forward, who knows where that will go?”

He said he will consider whether Jeffco could offer a biliteracy seal — a credential given to graduating students who meet requirements to prove they are fluent in two languages.

Talking about his views on budget issues facing most Colorado districts, Glass said districts should explore working with outside groups that can help address children’s non-academic needs — services that cash-strapped districts often have to cut.

Glass said it is clear the district needs someone to unite the community.

“It’s a place that needs a strong leader, a relationship-builder,” Glass said. “Those are skill sets that I have and areas that I’ve been successful in.”

His job application highlighted that voters in Eagle County in November approved a tax increase for the district. Jeffco failed to pass two tax increase measures in November.

Charlie Edwards, the president of the Iowa State Board of Education, agrees that Glass has learned to work well with various groups.

Edwards said that when Glass started in Iowa and was working to create a statewide model of teacher pay and to create new academic standards, the hundreds of school districts used to having local control were skeptical.

“There was initially quite a bit of resistance,” Edwards said. “He worked through a lot of it. It was not an easy sell.”

Now people describe Glass as a supporter of teachers.

When he returned to Colorado after working in Iowa, Glass negotiated a contract with the school district that tied his own pay raises to teacher pay raises. It was something important to the community at the time, Glass said, because they worried about a previous leader that took pay raises while teacher salaries lagged.

Glass also rolled back the performance-pay model that he helped create as the district’s director of human resources. Now, teacher pay is more traditional but with some added performance bonuses.

“He is very supportive of what we do,” said Megan Orvis, president of the Eagle County Education Association.

Lights - camera - action

Relive the Jefferson County school board recall in 12 minutes

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Recall supporter Cecelia Lange waved signs at 52nd and Wadsworth Tuesday morning.

What can a school board election tell us about American democracy?

Well, if that school board race happens to be in Jefferson County, involve the nation’s largest teachers union and one of the country’s most influential conservative nonprofit groups … quite a bit, actually.

At least that’s the premise of a new documentary short film, “Million-Dollar School Board” by independent filmmakers Louis Alvarez, Andy Kolker and Paul Stekler. 

The film chronicles the high-profile school board race — which included debates about how history should be taught and how teachers should get paid — that ended with three conservative members being ousted by a coalition of teachers, parents and community members. More than $1 million was poured into the campaign from all sides, hence the film’s title.

The Jeffco film is part of a nine-part series of short documentaries, “Postcards from The Great Divide,” released in a digital partnership between PBS’ Election 2016 initiative and The Washington Post, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Latino Public Broadcasting, with a PBS broadcast on the World Channel.

The goal is to answer this question:

As substantial interest group money flows down into even local races, does it also bring the same stark ideological and partisan divisions that mark our national politics today into debates that were once totally separate from Washington?

You can view the roughly 12-minute film in its entirety here:

Then reread a sampling of our coverage: