As I Watch Another Highly-Qualified Educator Leave Jeffco

Dear  Board of Education, 

Thank you for your dedication to the Jeffco community. I know your responsibilities are great in managing such a large district with restricted state funds; however, I implore you to consider what we may do now in order to make our district better. 

I am a parent and educator here in Jeffco (15 years). I’m an “elephant in the room” in that I have less choice in moving districts–although DPS is rewarding 10 years of service now plus bonuses for hard to reach. I don’t stay in Jeffco because I’m stuck. I stay because I love my school and our students. Why are you asking me to practically take a paycut to stay here? If I moved to Denver, it’s true that I would take an initial pay cut, but that would soon be erased in two years. I stayed in Jeffco during the freeze, which GREATLY impacted my financial status. I had just spent my own money moving toward a higher level–then frozen and didn’t see the true value of that level moving forward. Don’t even ask about LPS, Cherry Creek, or Boulder Valley where I would be making at least 5,000 more a year (and w/0 being frozen) 10,000 more.

You claim that “LEVELS” are a raise–well, yes and no. Teachers have to PAY for their own masters and education. I spent over $5,000 in moving to the highest levels through becoming a reading specialist through the district along with other courses. Not to mention $15,000 in student loans for my MA degree. This coursework helps improve the work that I do–we want to model life-long learning and learn how best to support our students. How can this knowledge, expertise, and experience appear to mean so little to you? 

I was frozen for 3-4 years, so I never made that money up until after the freeze. That is around 10,000 in pay over several years that I will never recover. We asked our teachers to spend their own money to improve and move on levels–THOSE ARE NOT RAISES. Also the only way to increase is through getting a MA–there is no level in between. This disproportionately affects our new teachers who cannot go back to school while they begin their careers–too stressful and too much time. They are stuck. Every other district has a level in between–like BA + 30/25 which would allow these teachers paying tuition to have some sort of increase. (DPS will pay teachers up to 4000 for advanced coursework AND levels.)

One of our best math teachers–I would say one of the best math teacher in the district–with over 10 years of experience is moving to DPS next year for a 18,000 pay raise. She will be at Denver School of the Arts, one of the best high schools in the state. The loss to our students is immense. The growth students experience in her classroom is truly amazing. I am so sad to see her go–there isn’t a replacement for her. How many other schools are losing individuals like this?  

As an instructional coach who works with new teachers, I recognize that there are less and less people wanting to even consider teaching because of the incredibly demands on the profession. Why would a new teacher choose Jeffco over another district or an out-of-state person choose Jeffco over Denver. The teachers in our district would say it’s the people and the students. We feel part of the district–however, when the district and the board insult us by a .67% offer, the effect on morale and support is felt everywhere. How are we as a district going to attract the best and brightest and KEEP the best and brightest? 

I am dismayed by the 0.67% offer. Our insurance rates are going up 4%. Our pera is going up 0.75%, so the 0.675% is really nothing. It just prevents more of a PAY CUT than any sort of COLA. I also got my tax bill, which will require more money for schools–I believe in this. I walked door to door for this, so why are teachers paying the price literally for increased funding for schools? 

You have the ability to do the right thing. I understand that you are being asked for money at all different levels, but voters chose to vote for 5A/5B to keep money at the classroom level. We did get some back pay at least; however, that was a long time coming.  When there is more work at schools, which there always is, we are told to dig in for the students. We are mental health workers, social workers, educators, parental figures, tutors, colleagues, and hard-working people. You ask us to do more every day and then ask us to take pay cuts when other districts realize the need to keep up with inflation at the very least! I know there is much work to be done at the district level, but not compensating teachers appropriately would be a mistake. 

I hope that you consider teacher voices in your decision making. Disappointment feels like disrespect in this situation. I hope you do the right thing. 

Sincerely, 

Jayne Vahle
Teacher, Bear Creek High School 
Parent, Westridge Elementary 
Community Member, Dakota Articulation Area