Volume 2 Issue 3

Community Voice

The Jeffco Observer accepts editorials from community members. Letters are printed at the discretion of the editorand may be edited for length, clarity, and style. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on this forum do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Jeffco Observer or its staff.

Thoughts and Musings from Wheat Ridge

by Guy Nahmiach

It’s been almost a month since our kids have gone back to school, and it seemed like all was
finally calm. Parents are back to their normal routines: dropping kids off, grabbing Starbucks for a quick meeting and then onto the remodeled King Soopers, where we're still trying to understand the random layout of products.

For most schools, things started off rather well. But at Prospect Valley Elementary, with one
teacher quitting on the first day of school, classes had to be rearranged with some surpassing the 30 student mark. Then last week a sixth grade teacher and the secretary resigned. And finally, all three first grade teachers announced they will retire at the end of the year. Talk about stress. No doubt replacing Ms. Monaco and especially Ms. Hutton will not be easy. During Dylan's graduation from grade 6 last year, she was the only one to come out and hug the students she had in her own class some five years earlier. They will be missed!

Generational transitions throughout our schools are never easy. New teachers may be
frustrated at not being able to implement new teaching techniques, parents may be concerned
with the lack of rigor in new programs and may have to learn how to help their students with new homework.

Everitt Middle is another school experiencing transition. These changes seem more positive;
with a relatively new principal, Mr. Gomez, things are looking up. Teachers are using new
technology to engage students, communicate with parents, and implement and teach the curriculum.

I was floored when I walked into this year's first PTA meeting to find over 20 energetic teachers ready with their plans for after-school clubs, community interaction and fundraisers. Talk about raising the bar! If you are considering a middle school for your child next year, make sure to visit with Principal Gomez. You will not be disappointed.

Congratulations to Pennington Elementary for winning the National PTA Award of Excellence.
This award recognizes their efforts to increase parent engagement at the school which is a key
factor in improving the learning environment.

Applause also goes to Mountain Phoenix for successfully securing the site of Fruitdale as the
location for their upcoming high school. It will be great to have another choice for families at that level as well.

Speaking of Choice

I was excited about this week's first of many Education Summits organized by the Wheat Ridge Committee for Educational Excellence. Hosted by the Wheat Ridge Rec Center, it was a chance for local schools to promote themselves to local families. With so many rumors and opinions floating around, each school was represented by its principal and had a table with handouts and other representatives. It was great to get firsthand information about their programs, strengths and staffing. Truly, it was an opportunity for face-to-face conversations about the future of our kids.

By design, this summit was not about school board issues. In fact, we did have a question
about teacher salaries that was quickly handled by one of the principals. This is definitely a hot
topic these days as there is so much misinformation going around. And while I agree that most
teachers are underpaid and have not had a raise in over five years, I have to ask: Where were the picket signs and votes of no confidence before this new board when the raises were not being handed out? Why the frustration with a 3-2 vote?

No objection was ever made to the four years of repeated 4-1 votes. Every member of the board represents constituents and voters that elected this new board. This new board has approved a compensation plan that will give 99 percent of Jeffco teachers a raise.

As a parent, I feel like my child and I are stuck in the middle of this fight. Neither side is getting
my full support, and that's exactly why enrollment in charter and private schools is growing
every year. I am writing this as announcements are being made of school closures due large numbers of teachers calling in sick. Is that really how you want my support? How do our students get this day back? In an ever shrinking school year, every day counts.

Do you have news about a school that you'd like to share? Is there a topic you want to read
about? Call or write me today . . . As always, thanks for reading.

This letter was edited and reprinted with permission from The Neighborhood Gazette. You can reach Guy Nahmiach at 303-999-5789 or email him at guy@NostalgicHomes.com.

Board Decision Helps New Teachers at Jeffco
by Anonymous Teacher

When I started to look for a teaching job, I wasn’t too concerned about my salary, because I just wanted to help kids. I did not choose teaching in order to make the big bucks, I chose
it so I could do my best to help children whose lives are far more difficult than mine will ever
be. However as my life moved forward and I got married and started a family my salary became more important.

The school board that a lot of unionized teachers refer to as “that new school board,” increased new teacher pay to a base of $38,000. This is a $4,384 increase from where starting teachers began the 2014-2015 school year. This is significant for Jeffco not only because it will make Jeffco competitive with other districts, but also because it will attract more young teachers. Furthermore, it is important to raise new teacher salaries because there is a need to replace older teachers as they retire.

The age demographic among teachers at my school is almost 60 percent under the age of
30. Although experience is a part of being a great teacher, don’t underestimate the value of
the teacher who has research-based practices fresh in their minds from their recent study in
universities. When teachers know what works from the evidence, they can become teacher leaders who bring research into action to affect student achievement.

Going into my third year of teaching this year, I am looking forward to earning a higher salary as a highly effective teacher, than I would have otherwise have made under the traditional step raises. A scenario that would not be good is if there were fewer teachers to teach in Jeffco because they took jobs in DPS, Boulder Valley, or who knows, maybe the Dallas Independent School District, which pays a starting salary of around $47,000. The board made a choice to reward highly effective teachers and that is a step in the right direction for the future of Jeffco
students and teachers.

Reader Email to JCSF

The Jeffco Board of Education should keep up the good work and not get discouraged. The teachers calling in with ‘blue flu’ should be ashamed of themselves for their unprofessional behavior in front of students and their taxpaying stakeholders. I personally am very upset with the teacher’s costly behavior which wastes taxpayer dollars and now is affecting the education of the children they are responsible for educating. The teachers are rapidly losing credibility with community that is paying their salaries. The majority of community members support what their popularly elected school board is doing.

Teacher reacts to pay changes

I am a first grade teacher in Jefferson County. I am also extremely conservative politically. Although I am a member of the union I am not defending the union in any matter in this letter, I am only defending teachers.

I would like to give a conservative teacher’s point of view on the new board majority and their recent actions. The new board majority has made decisions based on their own agenda, not listening to anyone else’s reasoning and certainly not thinking about teachers and their families.

I have not had a raise in four years. Since then groceries prices have risen considerably, my utilities have almost doubled, my car died and gasoline has remained expensive. Even though we were promised to get our steps back if there was a surplus in the state economy, the board has chosen not to fulfill that promise despite the $19 million in surplus. Instead they have chosen to give effective and highly effective rated teachers very small raises.

The evaluation system was new in the 2013-2014 school year and principals were told it was a practice, no holds bar year. Principals purposely rated teachers low to allow room for growth during the current school year. Now our pay is completely dependent on this “practice” year. Personally I had exactly half effective and half highly effective ratings, but somehow this averages to effective. For the hard work I put in last year, and the young lives I touched, I am receiving a $.62 an hour raise. I should be getting a $5,000 raise according to how many years I have been teaching. Am I the only one this insults?

I have been told I may actually make more in three years on this new pay scale than on a steps scale. Although I can appreciate this, three years will be several thousand more dollars on my credit card.

This is my suggestion to the board: give teachers steps back this year as promised but let us know you are going to begin your new compensation plan next year. Then we will know you value us and we will be prepared to accept the new plan. It would be nice to know that touching the future means something.

Editor Response

As a result of the last Employee Summit in the summer of 2013, before the new board, the union and the district met to discuss pay increases. The district and the union agreed to a total possible compensation increase of $11.7 million which it was suggested would be allocated as steps increases. Giving teachers a step increase would have left over 400 teachers without a raise because of where they sit on the step and level chart. Because of the frozen steps this teacher who has been with the district for 16 years is actually only on step 13 and would NOT have been eligible for a raise this year under the step plan.

The new board determined that all teachers should be eligible for increases, after all every teacher took cuts over the last couple of years. The new board also determined that there should be $18.2 million allocated to compensation increases this year. Rather than allocate the raises based upon the step model, the board chose to award raises based on effectiveness ratings. They did so not only to reward JeffCo’s best teachers, but also to be sure no teacher that was rated effective or highly effective would be left without any raise at all based on their
location on the pay scale. The increases work out to an average of 2. 43% for effective teachers and 4.25% for highly effective teachers. The board also approved a 1% increase for new teachers rated partially effective. All of these are raises are to the base salary and are on-going. We encourage you to read our cover article for more detail.