Summit County teachers, board at odds over 4A funding allocation

Summit High School teachers Melissa Spaly, left, and Courtney Smith, center, rally for more educational funding near the Colorado State Capitol on Friday, April 27, in Denver.
Hugh Carey | Summit Daily News

FRISCO — The Summit County Education Association, the union representing teachers in the Summit School District, issued a statement on Friday, Dec. 20, expressing “disappointment” with the district board of education regarding the allocation of funds meant for teacher recruitment and student mental health services.

The disagreement has led the union to walk away from the proposed raise for teachers in the amount of $1,240 to show solidarity with support staff.

At issue is what the district intends to do with funds from Ballot Measure 4A, which diverted levy funds previously meant to pay for full-day kindergarten in the district to other uses after the state passed a law this year funding full-day kindergarten at public schools across Colorado.

The association contends that the district is not putting the money where it needs to go when it comes to teacher and staff recruitment by using a “compensation philosophy” that also rewards administrators with the same proportional raise staff will get. They said they attempted and failed to change the district’s position after a 5-hour meeting.

The 2% raise for both staff and administration, the association contends, is not in the spirit of what 4A was meant to pay for.

As an example, they said that staff who receive $15 an hour will get a $627 annual raise, while an administrator making $120,000 will get a $2,400 raise. The association contends that staff should be getting more of the money than administrators, as they need it more and because the money is meant for teacher and staff recruitment, not administration.

“The teacher team asked the district to be creative with the allocation of this money as it was earmarked for the recruitment and retention of teachers and staff,” said the association in its statement. “Teachers at SSD do not see recruitment or retention issues at our administrative building in Frisco. They do, however, see understaffed cafeterias, buses, paraprofessional and custodial staff. They also see turnover in their buildings regularly. All of this negatively impacts our students.”

The statement said that 83% of SCEA teachers voted no to their proposed raise in solidarity with support staff.

“Teachers are hoping that the Board of Ed will take the time to reconsider using the current ‘Compensation Philosophy’ in order to allocate these ongoing, taxpayer-voted funds while our students wait in long lunch lines and miss field trips because our buses and cafeterias are understaffed,” said the association said in their statement.

Superintendent Kerry Buhler said that the school district has followed the current compensation philosophy for raises since 2015, when it was approved by the school board of the time. The way the board allocated funding follows that philosophy, she said, with teachers getting their own negotiated raise and administration/staff getting proportionate raises with what’s left.

As far as the basis for the compensation philosophy giving administration the same percentage raise as support staff, Buhler said that both administration and staff work hard at the jobs they do.

“I wish people could realize that the front office can be a lonely place to work,” Buhler said. “I can tell you that that our administrators are some of the most hardest working, most dedicated people trying to do their best to give our kids a great education.”

However, Buhler said that the board will be taking another look at the compensation philosophy and see if it should be continued when contract negotiations open in the spring. In the meantime, Buhler said she hopes all sides can continue communicating.

“Our hope would be that we could all come back to table,” Buhler said. “The compensation philosophy will be applied as it has been before, and we want to get these dollars in people’s pockets. We will reach out to teachers when they get back form break, and set a time where we can continue this conversation.”

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