Manual teachers react to JCPS pay raise


Adam Winger

Teachers like these look forward to continue instructing kids and enabling their future success. Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash.

Caleb Masterson

All Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) teachers will soon find themselves the recipients of a five percent pay raise. This is a part of a larger contract extension approved by the Board of Education, slated to take effect in 2023.

“That five percent is really about a 40 million dollar investment in our staff and educators in JCPS, and that commitment is very important to highlight,” stated Dr. Marty Pollio, the JCPS superintendent.

Besides the raises, the other notable benefits of the contract extension include the ability for teachers to take sick days in half-day increments, the ability to make up lost planning time outside of the workday and the creation of a task force that will review and streamline paperwork systems in the district. The contract extension also offers $8000 stipends to teachers who work in Choice Zone schools. Choice Zone Schools are dedicated to providing West End students with more school choices and magnet programs near their homes. 

Manual teachers that were interviewed support the contract extension but feel as if the teacher union, the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA), could have handled it differently. Many believe that the JCTA could have bargained for more or spent more time developing their initial requests.

“I’m not opposed, but I wasn’t completely informed,”  Ms. Cynthia Shiroma (Latin) said. 

“I voted yes, only to find out there was still a lot more going on with it. We may have been able to get better things,” Shiroma said.

A Manual teacher who wished to remain anonymous suggested that the negotiating process between the union and the district administration felt rushed.

“[JCTA] just set a dangerous precedent and passed something without the proper negotiation process. On the other hand, there is a crisis in regards to the shortage of teachers, so I do believe part of this unprecedented approach, passing the agreement without negotiating, was to secure the teachers we have and gain more.”

This claim is not without merit. Dr. Pollio stated his intentions for high teacher retention at the Nov. 29 board meeting. 

“The goal with this is to attract teachers, and for teachers to be retained in our high need schools. I can’t underscore enough how important that is to school culture, to student achievement,” Dr. Pollio said. 

“What was in the contract extension was good for teachers but did not allow us to participate in a full bargaining process as was expected this spring, and which public relations were preparing for. We are glad that the district and union will continue to negotiate various changes to our contract over the next few years, but this is neither guaranteed nor is it the same as a full bargaining process where we would formally ask for everything that we need and deserve. I believe that the contract extension passed because teachers desperately need wages to increase,” said JCTA representative Matilda Ertz.

The contract extension allows for teachers to negotiate further benefits over the next two years. However, most teachers feel the initial extension could have provided more.

“I feel the support for parents should be more substantial, regarding parental leave, for instance. I think that the cost and quality of healthcare also leaves a lot to be desired,” an anonymous teacher said. 

“Paid family leave, I want to see,” said Shiroma. 

“It also passed because teachers (or at least those who voted yes) largely trust that district and union leadership will continue to address the myriad problems contributing to the teacher shortage. They must. As an example, we need and deserve paid new-parent leave. The current policy is antiquated and bad. A majority of teachers want this changed, and we would have pushed for it in bargaining,” Ertz said.

It is worth noting that newer members of JCPS are more supportive of the initial contract extension than those who have been working here longer.

“I’m new to JCPS, but I’m thrilled. I thought it was a good pay raise and a fair contract,” said a different anonymous Manual teacher.

The ability to take sick days in half increments is a benefit that the interviewed teachers appreciate. This change will allow teachers to more conveniently fit medical appointments into their schedule.

“I really think the half-days will be wonderful. Otherwise, I’d have to take off a whole day just to see the dentist,” Shiroma said.

However, despite this beneficial option, some teachers are used to the current system and do not foresee themselves utilizing the change.

“I can’t remember a personal experience in which [half-days] would’ve been useful for me, but I could imagine them being useful for others,” an anonymous Manual teacher said.

This raise comes atop an existing four percent pay raise for JCPS teachers that had been approved prior to the 2022-23 school year. At the Nov. 29 board meeting, Dr. Pollio noted that further negotiations with the JCTA are already underway, with hopes of granting teachers maternity/paternity leave and bereavement leave. Those talks are scheduled to conclude within eight to 12 weeks. 

“Reportedly, the district is considering revising parental leave. Personally, I would have preferred a standard bargaining process where we could have really pushed for each and every issue that would improve the working conditions of rank-and-file teachers—which are, in fact, student learning conditions. It’s too bad we had to trade the option to do better with an option to do some immediate good,” Ertz said.