GOLDEN, Colo. -- Teachers gathered outside school district headquarters in Jefferson County this afternoon on the eve of another contract negotiating session.
Their message to administration, "we want a fair living wage."
The Jefferson County School District and Jefferson County Education Association will sit down at 8-am Friday for a three hour zoom session.
The current contract expires in August.
After rallying outside the headquarters building, teachers and parents marched toward Denver West Marriott Boulevard chanting, "Hey Jeffco, one percent ain't about to pay the rent."
JCEA President Brooke Williams, an art teacher, says the past year has been very tough on educators.
"It's been very stressful just trying to meet all of our students needs," she said. "We're trying to meet their mental health needs, as well as their instructional needs."
In a news release the JCEA said they are advocating for:
● Equity for educators, students and families
● Respect for our education professionals and the resources they need to succeed
● True collaboration, with all Jeffco stakeholders when decisions are being made
● Full time DTLs (Digital Teacher Librarians) in every school
● Increased mental health supports for students, lower case ratios for providers
● Increased supports for Art, Music and Physical education
● Increased supports for special education
● Increased supports to recruit and retain high quality healthcare providers, especially registered school nurses
● Investment in our front line educators through compensation increases
Williams told Denver7 that current pay makes it difficult for teachers to buy their own homes.
"I have personal friends that are still living with parents," she said. "That's very difficult."
She said that's a far cry from the way things were when she started teaching.
"It was a destination school district, and I just feel like we aren't remaining competitive in pay, so we're not attracting the best educators," she said.
When asked about equity, Williams said, "We currently have 6 African-American licensed educators in Jefferson County."
That's in a district with 4,700 teachers.
When Denver7 asked why there aren't more, Williams replied, "That's a good question. We're asking the same thing. We're asking for accountability in our contract."
She said the education association would like to see a district committee that works with the Superintendent in developing goals around equity issues.
Denver7 reached out to district administration for comment about the teachers' concerns and received this short reply: "Since these are ongoing negotiations, we aren't doing any interviews or giving any statements at this time. We look forward to working collaboratively and reaching agreement on the contract."
Williams said, "Our educators invest in students every day, so it's time to invest in our educators."
She said they believe the district has federal pandemic funding, "and we're asking them to really invest it in our employees, so we can adjust (staff numbers) to our students needs, and we don't lose any more people."
Williams said she's hopeful that the new superintendent, Tracy Dorland, will work to change the district's culture.
"She has said that compensation and collaboration are her two main priorities, and she seems very committed to fixing our district's culture,"Williams said.
The JCEA head said she's heartened to hear that Dorland is willing to sit down at the negotiating table. She said no other Jeffco Superintendent has done that in the years she has been teaching there.
Tomorrow's negotiating session begins at 8 a.m. on Zoom.