When times get tough, the tough keep going, and going, and going…. and going.
This is the longest email we have sent in quite some time. It’s long because it’s important. Fair warning, you may want to grab a cup of tea (or whiskey) and a comfy seat for this one.
We hope everyone is enjoying their summer break and able to find a little bit of rest and solace. Please continue to care for yourselves and your families before we return to school. At this time, the safety of our students, community, and staff is our number one priority. We believe that coming together in the negotiations process will ensure that the staff have a voice in our working conditions. This is the best way to ensure that all impacted parties are a meaningful part of the planning process and that we can get the best outcome for our community.
URGENT ALL EDUCATOR SURVEY – open through 8:00 pm Tuesday August 4th
It’s time to speak your truth. Remote? In person? Hybrid? Ready to throw up your hands and move to Tibet?
We need to know.
Tonight we are sending our fourth “ReStart” survey. It is being sent to ALL Jeffco educators: members and soon-to-be members. The reality is, we need to know where people stand, whether they have committed to join the work of JCEA or not. Non-members will receive the survey through their school email address tonight.
Our goal is to have a super majority of Jeffco educators voice their views – we need current, clear data about how you feel TODAY. Based on what we know TODAY. To achieve this, we need your help.
- Take the survey
2. Share the survey
3. Contact every Jeffco educator you know and ask them to take the survey
How will we welcome new colleagues?
Next week New Educator Induction will begin. Remember how incredible it was to see your students at car parades? How it felt to finally reconnect? How much we all need just a little bit of positive human connection?
This year, induction will be conducted virtually so things look very than usual. Much like your students seeing you through the screen, your new colleagues will also be coming into this new virtual Jeffco world.
There is only one “live“ event on Thursday, August 6th. We want to welcome new educators in a way only JCEA members can – loud and proud with your Union.
This will be a “Welcome!” car parade wherein new educators will drive through the 581 Conference Pl. building to pick up materials and swag bags.
JCEA would like to form a welcome wave line starting at Colfax all the way up to the 581 building (social distanced of course), holding signs welcoming our new colleagues to Jeffco and ensuring that the first faces that they see are their union siblings!
We are seeking volunteers for this event and all members are welcome (family members and pets too!) It will only be a couple of hours, 9:30-12 on August 6th. Wear a costume! Break out the balloons! Dig out your best pro-educator rally sign! Additional materials will be provided on site to make your sign and it’s a great way to tap into some positive engagement amidst the current chaos.
Here’s the link to sign up for this event: https://bit.ly/Welcome_NEI_2020. Additional details are available in the link.
Your new JCEA Secretary is…
Thank you to each and every one of you who participated in the JCEA election for Secretary. The voting window closed last night and we wanted to give you a quick update on the results. Congratulations to the next JCEA Secretary Rhiannon Wenning! In addition to her new duties she will continue to serve on our CEA Board until her term is up this spring.
From your bargaining team:
Fellow JCEA Members and Education Warriors-
Thank you for your interest and vigilance as we enter a school year of unknowns and uncertainties. Like all of you, the JCEA Bargaining Team is concerned about the re-opening of schools with the specter of the COVID virus looming. It is with great trepidation that we begin to move towards a potential date in which we may possibly be in a classroom with 20-30 students for several hours during a pandemic. We share the same concerns as you; we are as concerned as you. We also desperately want to be back in the classroom teaching our students, but only if it is as safe as possible for all of us.
We must come to agreement now on working conditions and the details of the Jeffco Restart plan. Much needs to be adjusted and clarified. The district delayed the start of school to August 24 to allow for more planning, and then announced virtual learning until September 8. In the meantime, other Colorado districts unveiled their plans that show a more thoughtful approach including creative hybrid models. Some districts are delaying in-person learning until October at the earliest. Regardless of when in person learning begins in Jeffco, we must agree on appropriate procedures and have collaborative criteria that details when we switch from online to in person and back. The current plan has many unknowns and is ambiguous at best.
The JCEA Bargaining Team would like to share with you some insight into our processes, strategies as well as answer some of the questions that have been posed in general on social media and directly to us in emails.
We have been working jointly with our sister union JESPA to negotiate an MOU with the district concerning the re-opening of schools during this COVID crisis. JESPA and JCEA are working together on this language because we share the same workplace concerns. For example, the safety protocols on a school bus directly affect the conditions in our classrooms. We need to have language that protects all aspects of our return to learning. The MOU that the JCEA Bargaining Team and the JESPA Bargaining Team is working on includes a comprehensive list of requests and demands compiled by both teams for the district to meet in order for our schools to be safely re-opened. The draft MOU as it is presently comprised covers a wide variety of concerns including Job Protections, Cohorting, Ventilation, Testing and Screening for COVID, Substitute Coverage, Cleaning Expectations, Academic Concerns, and of course the Criteria for Reopening Schools. All total there are 65 different points comprising our joint MOU. JCEA and JESPA were scheduled to meet yesterday with District Management, however, it did not happen due to some lingering concerns on behalf of management. We are attempting to bring management back to the table to discuss the MOU as well as settle our compensation demands. The Bargaining Team is strongly encouraging you to write letters to Dr. Glass and Kristopher Schuh asking them to direct the District Management Bargaining Team to negotiate the MOU now.
Bargaining is both an art and a science. There is a lot of give and take on both sides during negotiations. When presenting a proposal, each side has to present its proposal understanding that 1) what you initially ask for will not be the final agreement and 2) the initial proposal has to be a point from which the other side can consider and begin working from. If the proposal is one that is far removed from the other side’s starting point, then any serious negotiation cannot begin because there is not any common ground from which to start. For instance, if District Management came to the bargaining table and asked JCEA to take a 10% pay cut to help balance the district budget, we could not even begin to negotiate that proposal because it would be so far from our starting point that any discussion would be pointless. In fact, it is called bad-faith bargaining and represents a deception at the table. Part of our ethical responsibility to JCEA and its members is to bargain in good faith and if we start negotiations with an unattainable goal that ultimately leads to an impasse, it is a losing proposition in negotiations. During an impasse, the default position is the language that already exists in the contract; and your association will want their last best and attainable offer on the table before an impasse is called because that becomes the starting point during the impasse sessions.
The district currently has many of the issues that are included in the MOU that JCEA and JESPA created. Schools are slated to open in some capacity on September 8th. This date of re-opening was recently pushed back due to a number of factors including the efforts of our members. In pushing back the re-opening date, the District did meet most of the demands that JCEA had made for the re-opening of schools. There is, of course, no guarantee that schools will in fact open on September 8th. If COVID numbers have not gone down by then the re-opening of schools will almost certainly be pushed back to a later date. We have heard a wide spectrum of opinions from our members, and the community at large, as to when we should return to in person learning – from opening schools for 100% in person learning immediately to not returning until January 2021 at the earliest. It is important to understand that fighting for certain outcomes could come with unintended consequences. For example, if we were to demand that schools remain closed until at least January 2021, the request could be far beyond any date the district would consider for a possible new re-opening date. This might be a non-starter and could lead to an impasse. Resolving an impasse is a process that takes time. During this time the current re-opening plan would be in place and come September 8th, the district would be free to declare schools re-opened as laid out in the restart plan. The JCEA Bargaining Team believes this is not a scenario any of us want. Furthermore, presenting such a demand could lead the district to declare that we are bargaining in bad faith. Bad faith bargaining is when one side is deliberately attempting to prevent an agreement between the two sides by deception, fraud, or deceit. JCEA has built a reputation of being an organization of integrity that is forthright and honest. This would be a damaging charge to this organization and its members. Another consideration with this request would be the loss of income and potential jobs of our JESPA brothers and sisters.
There is an additional push to keep schools closed until 14 days have passed without any new cases. While there are several promising vaccines in the works, there is no guarantee any will work or be available anytime soon. It is entirely possible this current pandemic may last several years. The Spanish Flu lasted for two years and even when it died out on a large scale, there were still new cases being reported. We agree that there must be a low baseline number of positivity rates before in person learning can resume, but is it feasible to have schools closed indefinitely until there are no new cases? A key to the MOU is establishing very clear baseline numbers in order to move from a restart stage to another restart stage but we may be years from a point of 14 days without any new cases.
Recently there have been some posts floating the possibility of a strike over safety concerns. The JCEA Bargaining Team understands the sentiment but it is important to understand the process for a public employee union to go on strike in the state of Colorado. It is more complicated than simply holding a strike vote and going on strike.
In Colorado before a public employee union can go on strike, it must first file a petition with the Colorado Division of Labor asking for the right to strike. The Colorado Division of Labor then has a time period to review and consider the petition, during this time the union cannot go on strike. During this period of review the Division of Labor may choose to allow the strike to move forward or the Division of Labor may assume “jurisdiction” over the conflict. By assuming jurisdiction the Division of Labor becomes a mediator between the two sides in an attempt to come to a resolution in an attempt to avoid a strike. If the Division of Labor chooses not to become involved, the Governor of Colorado can direct the Division of Labor to assume jurisdiction over the labor dispute, once again stopping a strike from taking place. This is a very cumbersome and long process. It is not as easy as it is for private employee labor unions who can take a strike vote and be on the picket lines the next day.
Furthermore, for any strike to be successful for a public employee labor union it needs overwhelming support of its membership- probably around 80-90% support- as well as the support of the majority of the public. At this point we do not have either. Looking at the JCEA survey in which over 3,000 teachers responded, if we combined the number of teachers who stated that they were willing to return to the classroom in either a hybrid capacity or 100% in-person, over half of the teachers in JeffCo stated that they were willing to return in some capacity to the classroom. Furthermore, when reviewing the requests for 100% in person instruction from parents, virtually every school is reporting that between 70-80% of their students’ parents have requested in-person instruction. At this point, neither of these numbers indicate a successful strike if one were to take place.
Let us be clear; at this point, July 31, 2020, we are a long ways away from any possible strike.
As you know the initial district offer for compensation was no steps and levels and no COLA. Essentially meaning that what we made for the 19/20 school year is what we would make for the 20/21 school year. JCEA countered with steps and levels and a 1.25% COLA on top of that. The district did not say no to that proposal, but they also did not agree to it either. We have not had any discussions since then. We were slated to resume those discussions this week, however, due to educators returning soon, we believe the MOU is a priority. Depending on the district’s stance on salary, if we were to enter into an impasse, the salary you were paid during the 19/20 school year would be your pay for the 20/21 school year until an agreement could be reached by JCEA and District Management.
If a salary agreement were reached following the September paycheck your salary would be applied retroactively.
July Paycheck Questions
There have been some posts on social media and we have received some emails concerning the July paycheck being lower than their June paycheck. This is because the new benefits costs go into effect on July 1st. Unfortunately, the cost of insurance goes up every single year meaning that your July and August paychecks are usually lower since our salary year runs from September to August. Usually there is a salary increase which goes into effect in September that makes up for the increase in insurance. Furthermore, our PERA contributions have also increased further contributing to the reduction in our take home pay.
We hope you have found this explanation helpful in understanding the position of the JCEA Bargaining Team as well as answering some of the questions you may have.
In closing, know that the safety and well being of our members and students is paramount and we value and listen to your perspectives and opinions. This time we are currently in is a complex and confusing period with many different variables and issues none of which seem to match with each other. The Bargaining Team has been working since January to get to the point we are at now, and we will continue to work on behalf of and for the benefit of our members and our students.
The JCEA Bargaining Team
- Christy Yacano, Bargaining Chair, DTL Sierra Elementary
- Michelle Moehlis, Incoming Bargaining Chair, Foreign Language Teacher Green Mountain High School
- Lisa Elliott, JCEA Staff
- Brooke Williams, President of JCEA, Art Teacher Alameda High School
- Dale Munholland, Vice President of JCEA, Social Studies Teacher Pomona High School
- Anthea Justice, SPED Learning Specialist Ryan Elementary
- Tony Toctrop, DTL Molholm Elementary/Colorow Elementary
- Rob Cassady, Science Teacher Standley Lake High School