With two weeks left, DCTA and DPS bargain with mediator present
Representatives from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and Denver Public Schools (DPS) met Wednesday evening in a continuing push to finalize an agreement on a Master Contract before the current contract expires on Aug. 31. Following Monday’s session, officials from both parties agreed to a mediator from the American Arbitration Association (AAA), as required in the current DCTA Master Contract. DPS had previously insisted on using a federal mediator outside the provisions of the contract, which would have prevented public participation in the process.
“Federal mediators are not able to mediate in public,” said Henry Roman, president of DCTA. “That’s why we have insisted that any mediation follow our contract to ensure the public, teachers and parents are able to participate in this important process. We are happy that this issue has been resolved and look forward to working together to resolve our contract.”
At the start of Wednesday’s session, AAA mediator Ruth Robinson introduced herself to both parties and those members of the public in attendance. She remained quiet and attentive throughout the remainder of the evening, which had a palpable renewed sense of cooperation.
On the agenda for the evening were discussions about instructional materials, personnel issues, performance evaluations (LEAP) and student discipline. Key remaining issues for each of these topics include:
- Instructional materials: DCTA is insistent that DPS uphold its obligation to provide comparable instructional materials for ELA-S and special education classes as required by law. The district wants to use soft language like “shall endeavor to provide” “wherever available” and “in good faith” that ensures no clear requirement these materials are provided. The difference between the two positions is very clear: DCTA stands in strong support of ALL Denver students while DPS works to protect its own interests.
- Personnel issues: In article 13, language surrounding the personnel committee should ensure that any member of the committee has the right to report the failure of the committee to reach consensus on a hiring decision to the association and/or the instructional superintendent, according to DCTA demands. DPS wants language that prohibits any discussion of the committee’s decisions, for fear confidential job candidate information could be revealed. DCTA continues to fight for language that provides teachers with a voice while ensuring the confidentiality of job seekers.
- Performance evaluations (LEAP): Teachers are tired of being “LEAP-ed,” according to DCTA. The practice of “LEAP-ing” includes staging teacher observations the minute a teacher returns from a vacation, moments after a safety incident occurs in a classroom or conducting seemingly endless iterations of observations and evaluations. In an effort to alleviate one of the greatest issues challenging DPS teachers every day, DCTA unveiled its proposal to balance the power over teacher evaluations between the district, administration and teachers. The district has promised to review the revised Article 10 and return with feedback.
- Student discipline: DCTA renewed its call that comprehensive restorative practices training be made available for all teachers – and the district responded by saying that such training will be available for all DPS teachers next year, both for groups and individuals who are unable to attend group training. In addition, DCTA expressed its deep concerns that there is no standard practice of developing comprehensive safety plans at all schools to provide guidelines and protocols on how to react to various safety issues at all schools. DCTA Bargaining Team member Lynne Valencia-Hernandez revealed the safety plan developed at Thomas Jefferson High School, which generated extensive discussion. DCTA insisted that such plans should be developed with teacher input, since teachers are the ones responsible for managing classroom safety issues when and where they occur.
“In DPS the observer currently has all the power,” said DCTA Bargaining Team member Rob Gould. “The teacher, well, you get what you get. And so what you see throughout our proposal is a system of checks and balances.”
“As a parent of a DPS student that was in an impacted classroom this past year, the fact that I could go to one of our elected CSC members and be reassured that there were supports in place and a plan in place was good,” said Gould. “I do need to know that my child is safe and that the proper steps are being taken. We need this in all schools.”
Throughout the evening, district representatives politely vowed to review the DCTA proposals and language revisions, in stark contrast to many previous meetings where DCTA suggestions and recommendations were rejected outright. With less than two weeks remaining until the Master Contract expires, it is essential that DPS keeps its word and works diligently to come to agreement on critical issues.
“Our contract expires in two weeks so we are very interested in securing a contract and we are willing to go marathon sessions if needed,” DCTA Executive Director Pam Shamburg said at the start of Wednesday’s sessions. “We hope the district is finally ready to bargain.”
The next Bargaining Session is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 23 from 8:45 am to 8:00 p.m. Sessions are open to the public and will be held at a DPS facility located at 1617 S. Acoma St. There is plenty of free, off-street parking. Please be sure to attend after school to support your Bargaining Team, your colleagues and your students. We will be live streaming all day through our Facebook.