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Jeffco’s school board approves a new union for preschool staff

Aerial-style view of the top of four young children’s heads as they practice writing the letters of the alphabet using colored pencils from a shared container in the middle of the four.
Jeffco’s preschool staff that organized to form a union are concerned in part about budgets for preschool classroom supplies.
Youngrae Kim for Chalkbeat

The Jeffco school board voted unanimously Thursday night to recognize a new union chapter for non-licensed preschool staff.

Without discussion, the board unanimously passed a staff-prepared resolution to recognize the union as group leaders clapped and cheered.

A couple of board members noted they were excited about the vote, and board member Rick Rush voted with a “heartfelt yes.”

The new union members will join JESPA, the district’s union for school support staff that includes bus drivers and school custodians. The new non-licensed preschool group includes almost 140 staff members that will now be covered under that union.

Some of those members attended the meeting in person Thursday night, wearing white T-shirts that read “I [heart symbol] my union.”

The group had spoken to the school board last month asking for quick recognition. Many said they were disappointed the district was taking weeks to respond to their request. District staff said it needed time as Jeffco transitioned to a new superintendent, and to allow for reviewing its policies on the matter.

The group had submitted petitions with signatures of a majority of the group. Still, the district worked with the existing JESPA union leaders to organize a weeklong election that closed on June 2.

Of 139 eligible staff members, 94 voted, all but one in favor of forming a union. The workers needed a majority of eligible staffers to vote in support to earn district recognition.

The school board resolution directs the district to start negotiating to try to reach a tentative agreement by Jan. 1.

Preschool staff who lead the unionization efforts said that the group’s priorities included having a voice in plans to reopen schools. The staff also are concerned about budgets for preschool classrooms, and about what they feel is the undervaluing of some staff members’ experience, even if they do not have a license.

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