Colorado

Boulder Valley teachers OK contract

stockflatironsA labor dispute that dragged on for months in the Boulder Valley School District has ended with teachers accepting the district’s contract offer.

Terms of the tentative agreement, approved Wednesday by teachers, include a 1 percent cost-of-living raise. That’s similar to the offer rejected by teachers last month.

Boulder Valley Education Association President Melissa Tingley said in a press release that there were “minor changes” to the district’s  final offer. Teachers wanted to move forward, she said, but her statements make it clear that they were not entirely happy about it.

“For months, the district and school board have ignored our requests to work together to solve problems and move forward for the benefit of the students, the teachers, and the district,” Tingley said in the release. “The administration’s hard-line position taken last spring has not changed.

“We hope that the district understands the serious morale problem it has created among all its employees,” she added, “the district and the community must realize that the disrespect and lack of collaboration is taking a toll on our dedicated employees.”

Boulder Valley district spokesman Briggs Gamblin said “all of BVSD is in the same fiscal boat. To imply otherwise is akin to one side of the boat telling the other side that they’ve sprung a leak.”

“The bottom line is that employees in a district experiencing minimal growth … still received a cost of living raise, full funding of steps, and full funding of individual employee health and dental insurance,” Gamblin said. “And, the district was still able to do this after having $3.8 million set aside by law into a fiscal emergency reserve.”

Boulder Valley school board to meet Friday

The Boulder Valley school board will meet Friday to vote on the tentative agreement with teachers as well as an agreement with the district’s classified employees, which include aides and food service workers.

“It has admittedly been a difficult negotiations reflecting the deepening state fiscal crisis,” Superintendent Chris King said in the district’s release. “I sincerely appreciate the support of these valued employees for their respective agreement.”

Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said Boulder is the last of the state’s larger school districts to reach an agreement.

Bargaining between some districts and their unions dragged on months longer this year than it has in years past. Boulder, Greeley and St. Vrain Valley districts all have settled recently.

“I don’t think we can attribute this to the current economic climate per se,” Fallin said. “We had many districts across the state that, with the same amount of money that these districts received, were able to settle in the usual period of time, in the spring or before school started in the fall…

“They were able to put their employees at least much higher on their priority list, if not first, than these other districts were willing to do. Those districts spent the money someplace else by choice.”

Union claims teachers not a priority; district disagrees

Gamblin disagreed that teachers are not a high priority for the Boulder district.

“Teachers are a very high BVSD priority,” he said. “Our total compensation package for BVSD teachers … amounts to greater than a 6 percent compensation increase for 2009-10. BVSD is, under Gov. Ritter’s current proposal, facing a minimum of a $12.1 million cut over fiscal year 2009-10 and fiscal 2010-11. To say the state’s fiscal crisis was not a factor in 2009-10 negotiations ignores reality.”

Boulder district and union officials will return to bargaining in February to begin hammering out a deal for 2010-11.

The statewide financial situation is predicted to tighten dramatically for the next school year and it appears likely many districts will be trying to hold the line on salary increases during the 2010 bargaining season.

Districts already have been planning for a 2 percent cut in state aid in the current, 2009-10 budget year. That cut hasn’t been made formally but lawmakers are expected to approve it soon after they convene next month.

It’s also looking increasingly doubtful that the state will reimburse districts this year for higher-than-expected overall enrollment and numbers of at-risk students.

For 2010-11, Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed what amounts to a 6.1 percent cut in state aid. He has advanced a narrow interpretation of Amendment 23 that involves trimming the 25 percent of school aid that is designed to compensate districts for cost of living, at-risk and size differences.

While some legislators and interest groups disagree with the details of Ritter’s proposed mechanism for making the cuts, there appears to be general resignation about the prospect that cuts will have to be made.

Ed News Capitol Editor Todd Engdahl contributed to this report.

 Click here to see the Boulder Valley Education Association press release.

Click here to see details of the tentative agreement between BVEA and the district.

Click here to see the Boulder Valley School District press release.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.