Teachers in Jefferson County are being asked to approve a tentative agreement the union and the district reached Friday. But it appears the two parties might have to return to the bargaining table before a final agreement is reached.

Late Friday a media release from the Jeffco teachers union announced the union had, after months of heated negotiations, reached a tentative agreement with the school district and was referring the deal to its membership. It read in part: 

The tentative agreement will now go to a vote of the JCEA members. If the agreement is ratified by the JCEA members, then the School Board will have to vote to ratify the agreement that their negotiations team already signed.

The agreement included, according to the release:

  • An average of 2.5 percent increase for teachers who were not rated “ineffective;”
  • Increased starting pay for new teachers;
  • Health care kept constant for all employees in 2014-2015;
  • Class size kept constant from this year’s levels; and
  • A plan to work on a new compensation system for the 2015 – 2019 contract.

However, the district released its own media release Sunday saying the agreement is “uncertain.” The district explains it like this:

Within a few hours of leaving the mediation session, the district negotiating team requested changes in the MOU before it was taken to the JCEA board.  Those changes were based on feedback from members of the board of education. The district team wanted to ensure non-probationary teachers, who were rated as not effective or partially effective, would not be eligible for a step increase. However, JCEA presented the MOU to its members without the requested changes.

Negotiations between the union and district began in February. However, the union declared an impasse in early April after its negotiation team felt the district’s team was unprepared and had no clear direction from the board of education. 

District officials are working out what will happen next (whether the two groups need to go back to the bargaining table before the board will take a vote on the current tentative agreement) and will provide more information tomorrow, a district spokeswoman said this afternoon.

“We’re beginning to feel like Charlie Brown,” said union president Ami Prichard.

Here’s the full release from the union, time-stamped at 10:58 p.m., Friday:

JeffCo Teachers & District Reach Tentative Agreement

(Lakewood, CO) – Yesterday, the bargaining committees representing JeffCo Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association came to a tentative agreement on amendments to the existing teacher contract.

Tonight, the JCEA Association Representative Council, made up of leaders in the organization, voted to recommend members ratify the tentative agreement.

The tentative agreement will now go to a vote of the JCEA members. If the agreement is ratified by the JCEA members, then the School Board will have to vote to ratify the agreement that their negotiations team already signed.

Below is a statement about the tentative agreement from the JCEA President Ami Prichard.

“Research tells us that the most important factor in a student’s education is having a quality teacher in every classroom. In order to maintain JeffCo’s high quality instruction the district has to respect their employees and keep their promises to provide every student with a quality education.

“This agreement doesn’t get us to all the way to where we need be to continue to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers, but will allow our teachers to know what the upcoming year brings.

“The community and our teachers will continue to unite for the best education for all of our students, including smaller class sizes in the future, competitive pay for teachers, and funding for programs like full day kindergarten that help prepare our kids for success.”

The tentative agreement includes:

– An average of 2.5% increase (a step) for teachers who were not rated “ineffective”

– Starting pay for new teachers will be increased

– Health care will remain the same for all employees in 2014-2015

– Class size will remain the same as this year

– Both sides agreed to work on a new compensation system for the 2015 – 2019 contract

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Here’s the full release from the district, time-stamped at 3:59 p.m., Sunday:

District’s contract with teachers’ association uncertain

On Thursday, May 8, with the help of a federal mediator, negotiating teams from Jeffco Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the 2014-15 school year.  The district and the association agreed that the terms of the MOU were tentative until reviewed by their respective boards.

There was tentative agreement in the areas of a step (pay) increase for teachers, maintaining and standardizing district benefits, providing additional compensation to cover the increased cost of PERA, and ensuring competitive pay for newly hired teachers.

Within a few hours of leaving the mediation session, the district negotiating team requested changes in the MOU before it was taken to the JCEA board.  Those changes were based on feedback from members of the board of education. The district team wanted to ensure non-probationary teachers, who were rated as not effective or partially effective, would not be eligible for a step increase. However, JCEA presented the MOU to its members without the requested changes.

“The district believes it is important to differentiate in terms of compensation between the vast majority of teachers who are rated effective and the small number of teachers who haven’t met that standard.   I hope JCEA will be thoughtful in only taking an agreement to its members for ratification that at the end of the day we, as a board, can support,” said Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt.

Witt added: “Great teachers are critical to student achievement and we want to ensure that compensation reflects excellence in the classroom. Let’s work together in good faith to provide certainty for district employees regarding their compensation for the 2014-15 school year.”