Union leaders representing educators at Denver Public Schools ended negotiations on the contract with the district on Saturday night after more than six hours of final talks, announcing that they would implement plans for the city's first teachers' strike, on Monday.
District officials – who hired 300 new substitute teachers and have an "active list" of 1,200 NCOs – declared their intention to keep the 161 Denver public schools open during a strike, although they cancel preschool courses for 3 and 4 years old.
However, DSP leaders have acknowledged that if they can not put in place enough teachers, they may have to consider closing some schools. If this happens, district officials say they will alert parents the night before.
Both parties expressed disappointment Saturday night after the collapse of talks, as Denver teachers are about to leave their classrooms in the name of better pay for the first time since 1994. Union leaders said they would not be willing to bargain again until Tuesday.
"We will strike Monday for our students and for our profession, and maybe then, DPS will understand the message and come back to the bargaining table with a serious proposal to address the crisis of teacher turnover in Canada. Denver, "Henry Roman, president of the Denver class. Teachers Association, said in a statement.
DPS, on the other hand, expressed dismay at the withdrawal of trade union leaders from negotiations on a new contract involving 20-year-old ProComp payment system the district uses to govern the remuneration of teachers.
"We have submitted an updated proposal that responds to what our teachers have said, which matches our values of equity and retention, which respects the language of the ProComp vote and which significantly increases the base salary of all our educators, "Superintendent Susana Cordova said in a statement. . "Despite the union's refusal to continue bargaining, we remain committed to working with the DCTA leadership to end this strike."
"What do you want more, Susana?
Saturday's 11 am trading session became more controversial as the afternoon and evening went by and finally cleared up shortly after 7 pm Emotions swirled when union representatives rejected a new DPS proposal that was cutting jobs in central offices in an effort to free up more money for teachers' salaries. District negotiators said the plan brought DPS closer to the union – but the union called it "deceitful".
"The teachers were stunned when DPS proposed to increase the incentives instead of incorporating this new money into the base salary, so as to make the district more competitive," Roman said.
The night ended with DPS General Counsel Michelle Berge wiping tears in her eyes when angry teachers from her district aired their grievances to Berge and Cordova, who remained at the bargaining table after the union ended the discussions and went out.
The union's decision to end the bargaining comes after the DPS quickly rejected its proposal against the district's proposal for the removal of 150 positions at the district central office, with the aim of generating $ 20 million over two years. to help finance teachers' salaries. .
DPS said Saturday's offer would provide $ 23 million in new funding for teachers' base salaries next year, for a total of $ 55 million over the next three years. The district said its latest proposal would increase teachers' salaries by almost 11 percent next year.
The union's counter-offer came with small technical changes that, Cordova said, did not bring the two parties closer – and actually moved them further apart.
Rob Gould, the union's main negotiator, turned red when Cordova spoke.
"I think we always ask teachers to make compromises over and over again," Gould told a room filled with teachers and district officials. "What do you want more, Susana? We give you our lives. What do you want to give us?
Cordova replied that she wanted to have time to continue negotiations, which prompted Gould to stand up and announce that the district could have more time on Tuesday – and that the union had finished speaking.
As teachers and members of the union negotiating team walked out of the room, leaving the district officials sitting alone at the table, Chelsea Teutsch, a grade five teacher, approached Cordova and approached the superintendent with a trembling voice.
Upset teachers explain to the district that they are getting teachers out of the profession. pic.twitter.com/QVJRglnEd5
– Elizabeth Hernandez (@ehernandez) February 10, 2019
"Listen, Susana, I beg you," said Teutsch, explaining that she had come to teach in the business world and that she did not want to leave the job that she likes but that she could not afford to stay.
"We did not enter this profession to become rich, but we should be able to make a living," Teutsch said afterwards. "I said these things to Susana because I feel that they are so far away from us and that we are portrayed as those bad guys who just want money. I love my children. It was really hard to leave yesterday.
Once the union members were eliminated, Cordova expressed dissatisfaction at a press conference.
"Obviously, I am incredibly disappointed," Cordova said. "We are ready, willing and able to continue working. It's not even 20 hours. We have all day tomorrow. "
Gould said the Denver negotiating team and teachers would not engage in negotiations on Sunday or Monday as they prepared and were conducting their planned strike. But, he added, teachers could be back in class by Wednesday if the district and the union reach an agreement on Tuesday.
"If they really wanted to get a deal, why did not they come back with this proposal on Friday so we could talk about it for two days instead of spending two days talking about professional development units, which then changed completely? "Gould said. "It just boils down to their deception tactics."
Cordova said that there was no reason to wait Tuesday to try to negotiate another deal while an agreement could be settled in advance.
Later on Saturday night, DPS officials announced that the district negotiating team would be in place on Sunday, ready to negotiate, and invited the union to resume talks.
"Educational opportunities for all our children"
Three hours after Saturday's talks, the DPS proposed to increase the teachers' base salary by $ 2 million over the next school year and to devote more money to increasing premiums for educators working in high priority schools, rising from an annual bonus of $ 2,500 to $ 3,000. By the 2021 school year, the plan would commit an additional $ 3 million into the base salary of educators, according to DPS chief financial officer Mark Ferrandino.
DPS's last starting salary is the union's proposal of $ 45,800.
After digesting this proposal, Roman updated the room full of teachers waiting to hear their fate.
"We have significant concerns with their proposal," said Roman. "We think that they deliberately elaborated the proposal to give the impression that they move while they are not." We are extremely, extremely disappointed. "
The money added in the DPS plan comes from cuts made in the district headquarters office, accused of being inflated.
A analysis by Chalkbeat Education website found that, compared to the state-wide average, the DPS is very heavy in terms of administration, with one administrator for each group of 7.5 teaching members, including teachers, librarians, nurses and others.
To finance the new district proposal, Cordova said the district would cut $ 20 million from its central office over two years, a reduction of about 150 positions. The DPS would also eliminate performance bonuses for central administration staff, said Cordova, eliciting applause from the audience of teachers listening to the plan.
The plan also completely reorganized the operation of professional development units – the issue on the agenda Friday night and most of Saturday's trading talks -.
The negotiations are being undone now. Cordova stated that the union's plan did not bring them together and actually moved away from each other. Tense conversations from front to back.
– Elizabeth Hernandez (@ehernandez) February 10, 2019
The Professional Development Units are a program of the Denver School District to advance teacher education through free courses on many topics similar to the college. The union wants teacher remuneration to increase when educators complete a PDU. The district said it was ready to consider this, but worried about creating a system to make it financially viable. District officials wanted safeguards to be put in place to limit the amount that a teacher could earn through professional development units.
The new iteration of district PDUs, called professional development credits, indicates that every 15 hours of district-approved professional development outside the work day equals a credit. Credits can be used to move on a pay scale. Those with a starting salary of $ 45,800 would need 20 professional or college development credits to move to the next salary category of $ 47,500. Educators can also scale the pay scale by staying in the district for 10 years or by obtaining a national council and advanced license.
"We are incredibly disappointed that on the last day of bargaining and less than two days before a strike, they doubled the number of unique incentives that teachers do not want," Roman said. "The bizarre proposition proves what we have said throughout this process, namely that DPS is not interested in listening to the concerns and needs of its teachers and its special service providers. "
It was evident on Saturday that teachers' union members and district representatives were frustrated and exhausted after marathon negotiations that absorbed everyone involved in the past month, although the negotiations on ProComp have been going on for 15 months. .
The talks between the two parties were calmer Saturday as illness and overabundance hindered the voices, but the frustrations are not masked.
Teachers sat in the audience to support the union and use breaks to negotiate songs and talk about Monday's impending strike.
Cordova acknowledged that classes in the state's largest school district will not be normal on Monday, but the district's goal is to keep all schools open. The district had already warned parents of children attending pre-school education that preschool would be canceled in the event of a strike, as the district would not be able to meet the rigorous requirements imposed to staff licensed in these classes.
Cordova admitted that she did not know yet whether she would send her own daughter to her DPS school on Monday.
"We will do the best job we can to make sure our students are in school, safe, cared for – and that there are educational opportunities for all our children," Cordova said. .