DENVER – In a demonstration of solidarity for Denver public school teachers who are preparing to go on strike, Shorter Community A.M.E. Church organized a worship service in Sunday's educators honor.
Reverend Dr. Timothy Tyler has invited DPS teachers and administrators to pray with them for a resolution of the ongoing negotiations between the district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA).
"We want to engage our congregation to pray for it and provide concrete support to our teachers during tomorrow's strike," said Dr. Tyler.
Not only does the church house educators, staff members, students, parents and DPS administrators, but it also has a history with the district. The church was built on land purchased in the district.
"We are not taking sides, we just want to help all parties unite," said Dr. Tyler.
The first African-American woman hired by the district is also a member of the congregation.
"She is still alive, Marie Greenwood, 105 years old – she is one of our faithful members and her insight is blatant," said Dr. Tyler.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church also has a long history of protests. The church was founded in 1787 after black parishioners withdrew from a worship service while they were not allowed to pray in the same manner as white parishioners. Sunday is the MA on the day of the founder of the church.
"That's about what today, as we celebrate our founder, we also say we want to support teachers who demonstrate tomorrow to get fair wages and be treated fairly," said Dr. Tyler.
The church raised donations for the teachers' strike fund and asked volunteers to sign up to distribute donuts and coffee to teachers and join the picket line with the union.
Dr. Tyler said that depending on the duration of the strike, the church might consider opening its doors to students to help parents who are struggling to find child care.
Several teachers dressed in red appeared at Sunday service, including Anna Wallenkamp.
Wallenkamp teaches at Columbine Elementary School and has a son who attends DPS schools.
"For so long, we felt like we were alone in this fight and it's really exciting to see people from the community willing to invite us and make their voices heard by us," Wallenkamp said. . "If they are willing to accompany us throughout this process, we must come here today to accompany them."
Wallenkamp said she had mixed feelings about the strike. She added that she was excited that something might change for teachers, but she also feared an uncertain future for the district and sad not to be in class on Monday.
"I feel totally sorry not to see my students tomorrow and I do not know when the next time I see them," Wallenkamp said.
She added that the parents had also shown their support to the teachers during the 15-month negotiation process.
"It's for me, but for all of you, happier teachers and higher retention rates among teachers also have great value for students. So it's a struggle for everyone and everyone will win at the end of the competition, "said Wallenkamp.
She thinks that the district as a whole will be stronger at the end of this process with teachers who can devote their full attention to their classroom work rather than having to hold a second or third job.
Ultimately, Dr. Tyler thinks that the district and the teachers' union should listen to each other, but also value what teachers do. He hopes the two sides will soon reach an agreement in the interest of the entire community.
"I think even a day of strikes is going to wreak havoc in this community and I am always concerned, particularly by children of color, to apply that to the other disparities we see. It will not help, it will hurt, "he said.