Denver – Denver Public Schools (DPS) is asking an independent third-party mediator to support negotiations with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association in hopes of wrapping up contract talks before school starts this fall.
“We are eager to get to agreement with DCTA. We know some of the issues are challenging and we believe there’s value in having someone impartial who can really look at what works for everyone involved,” said lead DPS negotiator Michelle Berge.
“Ultimately, we – and our teachers – want what’s best for kids. A mediator can help both sides reach a fair contract that supports our teachers and creates the best chance of success for our students.”
Negotiators for DPS and DCTA have met for nearly 40 hours of discussion over the past five months, starting Jan. 23 and meeting most recently on Thursday, June 22. During that time, DPS has provided more than 40 proposals for the DCTA bargaining team to review, on topics ranging from compensation and benefits to workload and planning time to increasing teacher voice in district decision-making and committing resources for social-emotional learning.
For example, the district’s proposal calls for extending incentives for all teachers in Title 1 schools – the district’s highest-poverty schools. Along with existing ProComp incentives, this means 63% of teachers would be eligible for this $2,600 annual incentive. (Teachers would be eligible for this Title 1 incentive whether they are in ProComp or not.) Another part of the proposal would add two additional paid planning days for Title 1 schools in response to workload concerns.
To date, however, the bargaining teams have only been able to reach agreement on less substantive topics, such as procedures for negotiations.
“We’ve exchanged proposals on major issues, but we are not making progress in getting to agreement on those issues,” Berge said.
District and union bargaining teams typically engage in some discussions each year on a portion of their contract. The current contract expires Aug. 31 and Berge said district leaders hope to have an agreement by the time teachers return Aug. 14 to start the 2017-18 school year.
“We want to have good news to share when our teachers return so they can focus on their students and the new school year,” she said.
Using a third-party mediator or facilitator is common for teachers’ unions and school districts across the state, including DPS and DCTA. In fact, DPS and DCTA have been successfully using the same experienced mediator for the last seven years, including in sessions open to the public.
DPS is requesting that same experienced individual return for two already scheduled, public bargaining sessions in July. The requested mediation service, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, does not charge the district or union for its work.