Teachers, JCPS fail to reach salary agreement days before school starts

Photo+by+Phoebe+Monseur.+

Photo by Phoebe Monseur.

Phoebe Monsour

The Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) and the District have reached an impasse during ongoing contract negotiations.

Donna Hargens said that the District’s proposal included step increases and a salary increase, a subsidy for National Board Certification, an incentive to recruit teachers from outside the district in high-need areas, a wage increase for the lowest-paid employees, and a plan to make a pool of $4 million for school supports that JCPS and JCTA would manage together.

 

Teachers protesting outside the JCPS Headquarters. Photo by Phoebe Monseur.
JCPS staff protesting outside the JCPS Headquarters. Photo by Phoebe Monsour.

According to an email sent by JCTA, the District’s proposal included a salary that would likely be less than the rate of inflation, reducing the ability to use sick leave and unpaid medical leave, eliminate teachers’ choice of professional development, and take away the choice for how teachers’ are paid.

Because JCPS and JCTA did not reach an agreement, the process calls for binding arbitration, which Brent McKim — president of JCTA and former teacher at Manual High School — described as a compromise created by a neutral third party mediator.

The attorneys from JCTA and the District are now working together to find a mediator to which they can both agree.

JCPS Headquarters the day of the rally. Photo by Phoebe Monseur.
JCPS Headquarters the day of the rally. Photo by Phoebe Monsour.

JCTA and several other unions had protested Superintendent Donna Hargens’ plan to eliminate step pay before the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Board of Education meeting outside the JCPS Van Hoose Center on the 26th of July.

“The rally helped communicate to the administration, the school board, and the community that a fair contract settlement is extremely important to the teachers of Jefferson County,” said McKim, who participated in the rally. “In this way, the rally was very important and constructive.”

JCTA is suing JCPS because they believe that Hargens is not honoring their contract.

McKim said that in a public meeting the district had “said to us that they had the money to pay for salary increase, but they are not willing to do it at this point.”

Allison Martin, JCPS Chief Communications and Community Officer said that she expects to reach a contract with employees and that the provisions of that contract will be applied retroactively.

“JCPS is committed to fair and responsible union negotiations that recognize the dedication and expertise of our employees, while effectively managing the resources of our district,” said Jennifer Brislin, Deputy Communications Director for JCPS.

McKim said that since Donna Hargens arrived in 2011, buying power for every teacher on the salary schedule has gone down by over 4% which is around $2400 a year.

On the salary schedule for every year of service, which is legally at least 70 out of 140 days, a teacher is given a small step increase which helps keep teachers in their profession and the district.

“At this point we can’t even give people a good view of JCPS because they won’t honor their contract,” said Janice White, a bus driver at JCPS.

Many people at the rally, such as Rachel Lepping, a third grade teacher at Dunn, were at the rally for both the teachers and the staff, who Lepping described as underpaid.

Sandy Mayes, president of the Jefferson County Association of Educational Support Personnel and no relation to Manual’s principal Jerry Mayes, said that because of their wages, many people in her union have told her that they were retiring or changing jobs to work at places that pay more such as Costco.

Mayes said that she also wanted to look for another job because of the situation.

Rebecca Peek, an organizer for the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), said, “The board needs to know that people are angry about the fact that people are not getting the raises that they have been promised.”

Richard Becker, a member of the SEIU, said that members of the SEIU have been to approximately 75 different schools around the district, talking to other members to recruit them to attend school board meetings and get involved.

Tyler Hartz, a Student Director for the National Education Association said that his family in Lexington knew about the contract negotiations because JCTA has been very active about this issue for the past few months.

“We only get paid 35 hours a week. We do not get one penny of overtime, but all the teachers I know, including myself, put in anywhere from 50 to 80 hours a week,” said Maria Schrenger, a kindergarten teacher at J. Graham Brown School.

Robert Smith, who works for SEIU, said, “It takes a lot of people from custodians to teachers to the aids to the secretaries to food service workers to make a good educational environment and we want the board to invest in these workers.”

“It is really important to resolve this so we can focus on teaching and learning and not our pay and benefits,” said McKim.

JCTA does not have a future rally planned at this time.