COLORADO SPRINGS — Disagreements between teachers and administrations at Colorado Springs School District 11 forced classes to be canceled today.
The Superintendent for Colorado Springs School District 11 sent a notice to parents Thursday morning informing them participation in a teacher leave day forced the cancellation of classes. Dozens of teachers took the day off because of concerns about proposed changes within the district relating to pay structures.
Michael Gaal blamed the change of plans on teachers, saying that students and parents may hear from teachers about why they took off today.
Gaal mentions conversations within the district on "various initiatives that we believe will increase student achievement" as a factor in why teachers are taking a day of leave. He did not provide further detail.
Dozens of teachers went to D11’s Professional Development facility to listen to conversations about proposed pay structures. Teachers compared it to a “pay for performance” structure, which they claim does not work.
“This new pay scale proposal would take us and break us into thirds and 1/3 of us getting paid very well,” said Laura Andujar, a teacher at McAuliffe Elementary School
“We feel like that that proposal is very demeaning to the profession of teaching,” said Bruce Cole, a teacher at Doherty High School.
The conversations involved bargaining teacher contracts. With the proposed changes, teachers argue the only way to get a raise, is to do more administrative work, instead of focusing their time in the classroom. They also say it diminished the role of experienced teachers, develops a pay structure that divides teachers, and does not acknowledge teaching experience and their education.
“We shouldn't have to do extra to get paid,” said Andujar.
While classes are canceled for today, Gaal says all AP testing and after-school activities will still take place on campus as scheduled.
In his letter, Gaal added that decisions have not been made on the proposed changes. There's also no mention in the letter to parents about potential staffing impacts at other D11 campuses or if only Doherty High School teachers are taking a day of leave.
District 11 sent a notice out mid-morning stating school administration will not be talking to the media about the issue as it involves ongoing discussions with employee groups. The statement also said, “the district is proud of the changes and initiatives that are showing positive improvements in student achievement across the system. These changes are necessary but can be challenging at times.”
“Our administration has the best interests of students at heart, just like teachers do. No one is trying to do something destructive. We have different ways of getting there. And I think that's probably more what has happened,” said Bruce.
Checking in with social media accounts for the Colorado Springs Education Association also showed that at the Interest Based Bargaining session, ttendees are discussed compensation and stipends, among other issues.
The District 11 statement read:
The highest priority for all D11 staff members is to provide a safe and conducive learning environment. However, we cannot safely hold school when there are high volumes of staff absences, like what happened today at Doherty High School.
The District is proud of the changes and initiatives that are showing positive improvements in student achievement across the system. These changes are necessary but can be challenging at times. Today, because of some of our teachers' conscious desire to participate in collaborative discussions, we were unable to staff the building for the day safely.
Our first and most critical obligation to taxpayers is to be in school and provide an excellent education for all our students. We value all teachers and respect their right to voice their thoughts and ideas productively. The District expects all schools to be open tomorrow. This is our commitment to our community and especially to our students. We are steadfast and pressing forward to ensure every child is thriving academically.
A News5 viewer shared the email sent to parents early Thursday morning:
"We regret to inform you that we must cancel school for students today due to high levels of teachers taking a teacher leave day. With abnormally high and significant absence rates, we cannot properly fill enough positions at Doherty with guest staff to provide a safe and conducive instructional environment. You or your student may hear from teachers why they choose to take today off related to various initiatives that we believe will increase student achievement. Currently, no decisions have been made in this process. Yet, sadly, teachers are making conscious decisions that impact our first and most critical obligation—to be in school and provide an excellent education. We value all teachers, but changes to how things have been done in the past are often brought to the table, and this is the kind of noise that comes with change. All AP exams will take place as previously scheduled. There is no impact on this testing.
Our obligation to you as taxpayers is to provide the highest quality education for our students. The District expects all schools to be open as usual tomorrow. This is our commitment to your family. We value all of our staff in this same shared vision. We are steadfast and pressing forward to ensure every child is thriving academically.Thank you for your continued partnership and support as we work towards the best interests of our students."
-Michael Gaal, Superintendent, Colorado Springs School District 11
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