GOLDEN — Given all the acrimony, some never thought this day would come.
The Jefferson County school board Thursday night unanimously approved an agreement with the teachers union that governs how educators are hired, fired and paid.
For nearly two years, critics have claimed ad nauseam that the school board majority’s only goal was to end the district’s relationship with the Jefferson County Education Association.
Majority members Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk proved them wrong.
The contract, which is being championed by the majority’s conservative backers, runs just 10 months. The average teacher contract runs three years.
While the contract eliminates or weakens many union practices including seniority protections, it’s the duration of the contract that has teachers spooked. The end goal, to bust the union, is still the same, they believe.
“They want to be able to review the contract after one school year,” said Columbine High School teacher Paula Reed. “But we’ll start negotiations before school ends. If you really want to review something after a school year, you do that during the summer. To me it has nothing to do with how this all works out and everything to make sure the contract ends when it’s hard to organize teachers.”
It’s unclear what relationship the school board, district officials and union leaders will have moving forward. Especially with a nascent recall election.
Outside the board room, union president John Ford told members it was important they put the contract behind them and focus on changing the makeup of the school board.
“It’s a bad deal, we know it. We absolutely know it,” he said. “But we had to get rid of this distraction … We have to get to work. We have to get to work right now. We have a big lift in November.”
Meanwhile, Witt and his conservative colleagues thanked the negotiation teams.
“I want to thank the negotiating teams of the district and the JCEA for their hard work this spring to get an agreement that better supports the goals of having an effective teacher in every classroom, recognizing and rewarding our great teachers, and effectively and efficiently applying our limited resources to maximize student academic achievement,” Witt said before voting for the agreement. “This landmark rewrite of a 120-page agreement and reducing it to 41 pages brings with it, I’m sure, a period of change. We owe it to our students to carefully consider this year, where the spirit of this agreement is being met and where we may need room for revision.”
Other elements of the contract include policies that allow teams of teachers and school administrators to make decisions on issues like school calendars, training, and resources; the district’s pay-for-performance plan established last school year codified; and limits on class size.