Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who's in the box, who's out?

I am continually amazed by the perceptions of the media in Colorado when talking about DCTA. Our recently retired Executive Director, Bruce Dickinson always told us that it's hard to be a prophet in your own land.

Across the country, DCTA is hailed as a progressive teachers union; willing to try new things; and even called "out of the box" which led to becoming charter members of the Teachers Union Reform Network . Some other teachers unions resent us and feel that we crossed the line when it comes to alternative compensation. Though most were intrigued by the thought of
DCTA starting a school next fall, we even heard "there goes DCTA again... what are they doing now?" Yet, our friends in Denver continue to bash us for being too "in the box."
Oh, the irony...

I must remind you that DCTA (THE TEACHERS UNION) worked with the district to create the first CDMs in the country, Instructional Issues Council, School Leadership Teams, Beacon Schools, and ProComp. All of these efforts were groundbreaking in CO and are being modeled across the country. We did all of this so that we could work together to increase student achievement.

We also put together our own suggestions on how to increase student achievement called "Promoting School Success." In fact, both papers wrote supportive editorials about our plan.

I am very proud of our union members, and their willingness to try new things. Now, we are working with the district on case loads for Specialized Service Providers, and the Professional Practices Work Group to revamp our induction, mentoring, remediation, evaluation and dismissal processes. By the way, everything listed was negotiated and agreed upon by our teachers.

Are there other teachers unions like us in Colorado? Is DCTA in or out of the box?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NCUEA Fall Conference

This weekend, Melissa (VP), Lawrence (Treasurer) and I are attending the fall conference of the National Council of Urban Education Associations. We spent time in various sessions. I chose to attend sessions on new teacher induction, mentoring, and web enhancement. We also spent time on new business items pertaining to education funding, the development of a teaching learning institute, and issues related to the reauthorization of NCLB. It's a great opportunity to learn about things happening across the country, network, and gather resources to support DCTA programs. We are always asked about ProComp, and spent time talking with various unions about the settlement also.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not a charter...

Just to clear up any confusion, the Math and Science Leadership Academy is a traditional Denver Public School. We wanted to work within our system to create change and innovation. Some of the reports have portrayed us as a charter, but we are not. We will be a traditional public school working within the system- unionized, and led by teachers, and working in true collaboration.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Today, our Ethnic Minority Advisory Council held a training session to examine issues around cultural diversity and supporting ethnic minority students in the district. There are so few teachers of color in our district, especially in comparison to the student population.

We are fortunate to have support systems within DCTA that allow for our teachers to recognize and celebrate our diverse educator and student population. We have been providing cultural competence training for 2 years now, and will continue to provide additional trainings for educators. Ann Franco is teaching a PDU this spring called CARE; Culture, Abilities, Resilience, Effort, and we hope that teachers will take advantage of this oppportunity. I want to recognize 4 DCTA members that were selected to serve as leaders of NEA National Cadres: Ann Franco- Minority Leadership Cadre, Rudy Bustos and Hetty Pazos- Diversity Cadres, and Lloyd Bourdon- Safety, Bias and GLBT Issues Cadre.

Thanks to all of our members that attended today's training!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

9 News Story on DCTA School!

Watch the story here!


No... not Blackjack. My brother is scheduled to come home early from Iraq- in 21 days.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Math and Science Leadership Academy

Channel 9 Story

I am so excited that the DPS staff has recommended our school for approval by the Board of Ed. next week. Our team of teachers has worked hard for the last 9 months to develop a school that reflects the needs of our students today, and in the future. I cannot say enough about Lori Nazaremo as a teacher leader, and the rest of our teachers that contributed and helped to design the model.

Our school will be teacher-led, and focus on math and science with a technology infusion housed at Rishel. We will operate in collaboration with parents and students- allowing all members of our school community to serve as leaders.

We wanted to develop a traditional public school that accepts ALL students, and gives them the tools that they will need to succeed in a 21st century global economy.

DCTA is willing and anxious to take on the challenge of putting our beliefs into practice for kids. We hope that the business community and foundations will embrace us, and be willing to work together so that our students can succeed.

p.s. Thanks to CEA, NEA, and our TURN colleagues for their support, and guidance!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Palin as President

Think about it... Palin's wardrobe allowance would educate a classroom of 23 students for a year in Colorado. We need to "CHANGE" this!

For your enjoyment check out Sarah Palin as President by clicking here. Very amusing!

PSP Committee

No, it's not about video games...

I was appointed by President Van Roekel to the NEA's Professional Standards and Practice Committee, and am spending the weekend in DC at our national headquarters. Our charge is to look at authentic student/ school accountability systems, online education, and teacher evaluations. I'm joined by 14 educators from across the country.

We have spent the day looking at online education through public schools, charters, for profit and nonprofit companies, distance learning etc. As we were examining policy and practice across the country, we had many rich conversations. Some topics covered were the lack of access for students and teachers to technology, lack of training, and the need to change the ways schools "work" in order to adapt to the needs of the 21st century and beyond.

Also discussed were student and school accountability systems. We learned about the work being done in NJ, VA, AR, WY, and IA. I shared information regarding DPS's School Performance Framework, the P20 Council, and CDE Standards revisions.

An analogy on student assessment from Alan Young of the DesMoines Education Association, "Does a doctor have to take all of your blood to test it, or just a sample?"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

DCTA Math and Science Leadership Academy

Tonight, DCTA had the opportunity to present our Math and Science Leadership Academy to the Board of Education. We have spent the last 8 months talking to students, parents, and community members to help inform the design of our school. Over 500 parents, community/business leaders, and elected officials have signed a petition of support of our DPS Innovation School.

Why does the teachers union want to start a school?
We want to put our words into action. We want to demonstrate that collaboration between parents and teachers makes the difference for kids. Most importantly, we want to push our students to become the next leaders of the global society.

Thanks to Lori Nazareno (our teacher leader!), Julie Variot, Elaine Giromini, Kathy Koralewski, Linda Barker, and our Advisory Board. A special thanks to our union colleages at CEA, NEA, and TURN.

Monday, October 6, 2008

TURN meeting

After attending the TURN meeting this weekend, I am back and reinvigorated. We spent a lot of time talking about successful innovation led by teachers unions across the country including Los Angeles, Boston, Westerly (RI), and Milwaukee to name a few. It is exciting to see districts that trust their teachers to allow them to implement "reform without permission." In Denver, we still have schools where teachers are judged by the posters on their walls... imagine if we allowed to focus more on actual instruction instead of the poster checklist!

Please click on the following link for a great article (Short on Power, Long on Responsibility) from Richard Ingersoll from UPenn, and has done extensive studies on teacher retention.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Politics in the classroom...

Many of you know that I try extra hard to keep my kids out of the political spotlight, but this story is too good to keep to myself...

One of my twins (6 yrs. old; first grade) was really sad when he came home from school today. It seems that another boy in his class told him he was "stupid." I asked why the boy would say something like that, and my son was so upset. He told me that the boy "was just mad 'cause I won't vote for McCain... I'm only voting for Obama!"

I KNOW my son is brilliant!
(too bad he's not old enough to vote)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Agreement is ratified.

Our Agreement was ratified this evening as follows:

There were 1877 total votes cast.
Accept: 1454 (77.5%)
Reject: 423 (22.5%)
Abstentions: 1

As I was answering press calls tonight, I was asked, "Aren't you relieved?"... Yes and No.

Yes, I do believe that this is the best agreement that we could get for our members, and know that our team worked really hard.

No, the hard work begins in its implementation. We still have a lot of work to do, and will begin training our leaders this Friday on the new provisions of the Agreement.

Our goal is simple; increase student achievement. Now, we have some meaningful vehicles to discuss and collaborate on strategies to make that happen through planning, professional development, and school culture. We have an opportunity to pave a new path in Colorado for teacher induction, mentoring, and support.

This round of negotiations was the most grueling I've ever been through. Hopefully, implementation will be a much smoother ride.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wow! What a week in Denver!

Following an exhausting marathon of round the clock negotiations, I had the opportunity to NEA delegates to the DNC on Sunday. Our outgoing national president, Reg Weaver, recognized our entire bargaining team at the NEA caucus lunch. We had the opportunity to share our tentative agreement with leaders of the NEA and AFT during the week, and ended the week with our national officers and staff at Mile High Stadium. It was an incredible opportunity to be a part of history.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

3 Year Tentative Agreement Reached

After 3 around the clock days in mediation, we have reached a tentative agreement with DPS. The DCTA team slept about 2 hours a night. Click here to read our joint press release.

Thanks to our members for your support and encouragement.

In soldarity,

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Very Positive Rep Council Meeting

Thanks to the 90+ Association Reps who attended our meeting Thursday and committed themselves to helping get our story heard among parents and others in the community.
We are gearing up for a city-wide Unity Day on August 20th in an effort to help members, potential members, parents, and everyone understand what is at stake in this negotiation. The district’s bargaining team is depending on everyone being preoccupied with the beginning of school and frustrated at the lack of progress. We'd rather be able to put our full attention into back-to-school activities. For a lot of us, this is our favorite time of year, a time of great possibilities. We're ready, willing, and able to complete a settlement by the end of mediation on August 22nd.
As we discussed at the AR meeting, this is not just another squabble over what the COLA will be. If we are successful, we will make some modest salary gains, but if we accept the caps, quotas, and capricious bonuses DPS is trying to push off, we stand to lose $300,000 in career earnings and about $14,000 a year in retirement. Anyone who looks at the facts can see it's bad for teachers, bad for students, and bad for Denver Public Schools.
In short, we have a little to win, but a lot to lose.
Find out more about Unity Day activities from your Association Rep. Information and materials are posted on DCTA's website.
Let's have a day where the public hears the truth! Help us reach out to parents on August 20th.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Letter to Denver Teachers

Dear Denver Teacher:

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association finds it outrageous that Superintendent Michael Bennett continues to try to directly negotiate with teachers and try to sell the Denver Public Schools' bargaining positions to the public. His characterization of big increases for all teachers and sustained growth in salaries bears little resemblance to what they have advanced at the bargaining table.

First, at various times, they have described their proposal as a $9,000 increase for every teacher, a $7,500 average increase, and a $6,000 average increase. All of these numbers have been used to describe the same proposal – and all of them are wrong.

Second, Mr. Bennett's most recent letter to Denver teachers states that all teachers are eligible for all ProComp incentives throughout their careers. In fact, their proposal would cap participation in a teacher's 13th year. This is part of their goals of increasing salaries at the beginning of teachers' careers and diminishing retirement benefits for career teachers.

Third, Mr. Bennett's letter says that all payments are fully pensionable. But it will be difficult to predict what one's retirement will be in an environment where – as DPS has stated – a teacher's salary could go up or down by as much as $9,000 in a year.

Call your school board members and ask them to get the district to work with the union and the mediator. Tell them to develop an agreement that advances the purposes and programs of ProComp. Tell them it is essential to attract and retain qualified teachers for Denver's children.


Kim Ursetta
President, Denver Classroom Teachers Association

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Get the DCTA Bargaining 411...

We are committed to reaching a fair and equitable settlement with the district in mediation. Our bargaining team has been working hard on our "homework" assigned by the mediator. Get the latest run down of the proposals, and what they mean to Denver teachers by clicking here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

TURN mourns the loss of John Grossman
Dear Friends:
It is with great sorrow that I share with you my thoughts about our dear friend, colleague and longtime advocate, John Grossman. As you know by now, John died Tuesday, July 28, at his home in Bexley. He had been recovering from a broken ankle and relaxing after a wonderful trip he had just taken to Europe. He was 62.
We will miss John. He was one of the most passionate, outspoken CEA presidents we will ever know. Without his enthusiasm, Columbus teachers would not be able to boast about so many innovations and benefits.
John was the son of educators. In 1969, he followed them into the classroom as a social studies teacher at South High School. But he didn't remain there for long. He was asked to take a union position only a few years after he began teaching; and in 1978, he stepped into the president's office.
John could not refuse. He was a natural leader who recognized the work that needed to be done to improve conditions for Columbus students and teachers. During John's tenure, Columbus schools weathered desegregation and busing, budget crises and long, often-heated contract bartering sessions.
Good things happened, and John was largely responsible. He was a major architect of our Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program and a leader in developing the collaborative process we now use to negotiate our contracts. He led Columbus City Schools to join with The Ohio State University in ground-breaking teacher training initiatives. Other projects that began under his leadership included the Northland Teaching Academy, Site-Based Shared Decision Making, Decentralization, Competency Based Education, Scout Schools, Multicultural Education and Ohio Institute for Urban Teacher Leadership.
John served on the Ohio Governor's Education Management Council and the Columbus Mayor's Educational Advisory Board. He was one of the founders of the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) and was a co-chair of the Ohio 8, the coalition of Ohio's eight largest urban school districts.
He also was a vice president and board member of the Holmes Partnership, a consortium of universities, public school districts, teachers associations and local and national organizations seeking to improve teacher training.
The reason John could do all this, and do it for 26 years, was his dynamic personality and his sense of humor. Many of us will remember how John could fill a room with his presence and his laughter. John Grossman wasn't afraid to say what he thought, and he did so whenever he thought it would help our cause. Sometimes his words weren't popular with those who read them in the newspaper. But they rang true. In fact, they resonated. And things got done.
I, for one, cannot believe that John is no longer with us. I can hear his voice echo in the stairwell of the CEA office building. I can still hear him arguing his point or encouraging me to take a stand on a tough issue.
The best I can do--that any of us can do--to honor his memory is to carry on his work. He would want us to.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 2, at Christ Lutheran Church, 2314 East Main Street, Bexley, Ohio. Calling hours at Schoedinger State Street Chapel, 229 East State Street, will be Thursday, 6-8 p.m., and Friday, 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. or Saturday, 9-10 a.m. at the church.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in John's name to the CEA Members Scholarship Foundation, Capital University or Christ Lutheran Church.
To leave your own remembrances of John, sign our online guest book at
In solidarity,
Rhonda Johnson, President

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DCTA and DPS Meet With Mediator

Today, we are having a pre-mediation meeting to introduce all of the issues on the table to our mediator, Norman Brand. Several DCTA memebrs showed up to offer their support to our bargaining team. We appreciate all of your support. The DCTA Bargaining Team is working toward a fair and equitable settlement for all teachers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

RMN Story on ProComp

Today's Rocky Mountain News has a 2 page article on ProComp, and Nancy Mitchell did a good job overall in laying out the issues around ProComp. Also open for negotiation is our entire contract- including issues around "time to teach", and peer assistance and review.

I want to set the record straight regarding our new teachers. DCTA wants all teachers to get a raise across the board. We want new teachers to have a salary that is comparable with the metro area. We are proposing that new teachers get across the board increases (in salary) , and bonuses (in addition to salary) that will allow Denver to lead the market as promised to Denver teachers and voters.

DCTA remains committed to negotiating a fair and equitable settlement so that we can attract and retain quality teachers in Denver Public Schools... our kids deserve it!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

NEA President-Elect Dennis VanRoekel

Yesterday, NEA President-Elect Dennis Van Roekel (AZ) spoke to Colorado. We also heard from several other candidates for NEA offices. Our other CO delegates are spending the day at various committee and caucus meetings including Teacher Quality, where Linda Darling-Hammond will be presenting.

NEA, Day 2

Mark Chavez (Boulder Valley) and I were re-elected yesterday by the Colorado Delegation to the NEA Resolutions Committee. We are spending the day at headquarters debating the NEA Resolutions.

Monday, June 30, 2008

NEA Convention...

Yesterday concluded the summer conference of the National Council for Urban Education Associations. DCTA Treasurer, Lawrence Garcia and I spent time discussing many urban issues with our colleagues from across the country. "Team NEA" is 100% behind DCTA in its quest for a fair and equitable contract that attracts and retains teachers in Denver. Thanks to NEA President Reg Weaver, and Bill Raabe from NEA Collective Bargaining for their support and assistance!

Today, Mark Chavez (Boulder Valley EA) and I are representing CO on the NEA Resolutions Committee. So far, we have discussed many issues including drop out prevention, salaries and compensation, quality teachers,and undocumented children, to name a few...

We're still waiting to hear if Barack Obama will be coming to speak to us later this week...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So how is DCTA’s proposal better?

There are three main reasons:
• There is a larger increase for all teachers, traditional and ProComp.
• The existing bonuses in ProComp are larger but not so large that they require disrupting salary building.
• These existing bonuses would be available to teachers on the traditional salary schedule through a limited opt in basis.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What does DCTA’s offer do for me as a new teacher?

What does DCTA’s offer do for me as a new teacher?
I am a new teacher and a person who does not intend to spend a career in teaching.
DCTA’s proposal would increase the ProComp index which would increase the amount of all of the ProComp elements. Our offer would begin to close the compensation gap between DPS and the surrounding Metro districts in a meaningful way for ALL new teachers regardless of their assignment. Check out the for more data.

Additionally, DCTA has proposed a meaningful and comprehensive induction and mentoring program that would provide support new and veteran teachers. To date, the district has not responded to this proposal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

$160,000! Do veteran teachers really make 3 ½ times that of beginning teachers?

No! Currently new teachers earn $35,568 and a teacher at the end of their career has the potential to earn $50,000 - $80,000, depending on education and completing salary building elements of ProComp.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why should we keep the ProComp structure intact?

Through ProComp we broke the “glass ceiling” on teachers’ salaries. ProComp allows Denver teachers the potential of a salary increase every year until retirement. That means a starting teacher would have the ability to earn salary building increments every year for as long as they continue teaching in DPS.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Would I get a $9000 bonus??

Only a few of you would.
If you teach in a Hard to Staff position, AND
If your school was designated as Hard to Serve (though we are unsure what criteria the district is planning on using this fall), AND
If your school is a Distinguished School,(though we are unsure what criteria the district is planning on using in the future)
then you may be eligible for three bonuses, but will sacrifice some increments that are salary building elements to get these annual bonuses.

DCTA's proposal follows clear criteria that are jointly agreed upon, and does not replace salary building elements with annual bonuses. Check it out here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A+ Denver Presentation

Last Thursday, DCTA Leaders presented to the Finance and Facilities Sub-Committee of A+ Denver. Check out the presentation created by Henry Roman, Margaret Bobb, and Lawrence Garcia

More "FAQ's" coming tomorrow...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Not yet.

Everywhere I go, I get the same question: "Did you settle yet?" Which gets the same answer~ "No, not yet; we're trying to get a mediator scheduled." Fortunately, we are just waiting confirmation of dates. We're pleased with the mediator that was selected, and look forward to getting a good settlement for our members.

Let me give you some more Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Will the starting salary for new teachers really be $44,000 a year?
A: Not really. Teachers, under the district's proposal would start at around $37,000. IF they qualified for a hard to serve, hard to staff, or distinguished schools bonus, they would receive the annual bonus at the beginning of their second year of teaching. They could also "lose" this bonus in future years if they no longer qualify for one of these categories. The district isn't clear about what criteria will be used to qualify as a distinguished school.

Q: Who will get the "Master Teacher" bonus that the district is offering?
A: The district says that the principal will pick a teacher!

Q: What is DCTA offering?
A: DCTA has made a competitve offer that will attract and retain teachers in Denver. Check out our proposals on the DCTA Website!

All is well!

My brother was sent "up North" somewhere in Iraq for a few days. He had emailed me saying that he would try to be safe- something he has never said before. Last night, he emailed saying "all is fine" and sent this picture.
Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Congrats, Christina!

One of my students from 2nd and 3rd grade (1997-1999), invited me to her graduation party last weekend. As an elementary teacher, it's so nice to be remembered after so many years! What a touching and humbling surprise for a student to recognize the influence of a teacher in their lives-especially so many years later. Congrats, Christina on your graduation from West HS, and good luck in school next year. You make me proud!

When/ how should ProComp be changed?

Just to set the record straight-

Here's the language from the ProComp Agreement that talks about when ProComp should be changed, and that it shall be based on data. The complete ProComp Agreement is on the website at:

4.3 The District and Association Shall Jointly Commission Both an Annual Internal Evaluation and an Evaluation by an Independent, Third Party Evaluator of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers. In addition to the items specified below, both internal and external evaluations shall examine the effectiveness and appropriateness of all guidelines, rules, policies and procedures specified by this agreement or otherwise created for the implementation and administration of ProComp.

4.3.1 Internal Evaluation. The Department of Human Resources shall develop or commission the development of measures of performance of the elements of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers to be used in the annual evaluation and recommend them to the District, the Association and the Trust Board. This evaluation shall include analysis of the implementation of the system and its effectiveness at achieving District and Association mission and goals and in keeping with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the ballot language approved by the voters in the mill levy override election, and the goals and elements of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers. Based on this annual evaluation, the Transition Team shall review and approve findings and recommendations for improvement to the Board of Education, the DCTA Board of Directors and the Trust Board. The evaluation shall be completed annually no later than November of each school year.

4.3.2 Third Party Evaluation. According to District procurement procedures, the District and Association shall jointly charge an independent, third party evaluation of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers. This evaluation shall examine the implementation of the system and its effectiveness at achieving District and Association mission and goals and in keeping with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the ballot language approved by the voters in the mill levy override election, and the goals and elements of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers. This evaluation shall offer findings and recommendations for improvement of the system. This evaluation shall be presented to the Board of Education, the DCTA Board of Directors and the Trust Board in November 2009, prior to when the District and Association commence negotiations on the Professional Compensation System for Teachers, thus ensuring that those negotiations shall be supported by data. The Transition Team of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers shall recommend the evaluator to the District and Association no later than April of 2008. The Department of Human Resources shall develop measures of performance of the elements of the Professional Compensation System for Teachers to be used in their evaluation. The Transition Team will review these measures and, once approved, recommend them to the evaluator.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Your Bargaining Team... hard at work this afternoon.

Since our friend Van asked...

No, ProComp is not broken. It was designed to ensure that there would be enough money 50 years from now so that our performance pay system would have a sustainable revenue source. I must also add, that an outside professional, Doug Rose, was essential to the development of the financial model. Other districts where alternative comp. was implemented failed because there wasn't a dedicated funding source. We, in Denver, are continually praised for "doing it right", and other districts are modeling their system after ours.

DCTA does have an answer... it's called a counterproposal. We were ready to "pass it" to the district on Friday, May 16th. Our mediator went on our behalf and asked them to prepare a counterproposal on "time to teach" issues. Through the mediator, we were told that they didn't have a counter for us, and that they were going home. SO, if DPS wants to hear our ideas, we're anxious to talk AT THE TABLE about many issues...
  • The current DPS ProComp bargaining proposal is a radical departure from what DCTA members and the voters approved.
  • We need a good settlement that will enable DPS to compete with other Metro area districts in attracting and retaining quality teachers.
  • We need a solution to the “time” issue -- time to do our jobs effectively and time for planning, assessment, data analysis, and working together.
Did I mention that we've been waiting for 2 months for a counterproposal on the development of a Peer Assistance and Review Program?? What a progressive concept- proposed by the union- I must add.

Bargaining in public won't get a deal closed. Sitting down at the table will.

Andale, pues!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thoughts on DPS's proposals...

The DPS bargaining propsals fail on several principles we set forth at the beginning;
Fairness -- It picks winners and losers without regard to teacher quality. For example it is design to build salary growth for younger teacher -- capping salaries for veterans. And for good measure throws out an arbitrary "master teacher" lottery not connected to ProComp in any way.

It's not based on principles (or research) of ProComp -- We are not as quick to say ProComp is broken but we have agreed to make changes. But ProComp was designed to encourage those things that make a difference on teacher quality. DPS's plan aims to implement Washington, DC-based theories by Marc Tucker, not deal with Denver realities. The current DPS proposal is a radical departure from the system that was agreed to by our teachers and the Denver voters.

There's too much funny math in how DPS characterizes its proposals -- sometimes they say 9000 average salary increase, sometimes they say 6000 but too many teachers would get 2.2 percent -- and lose thousands in retirement. Bennet and Pena call us "crazy" for not letting a few teachers take the short end money and sacrificing retirement security for their families.
For all the talk of attracting and retaining the DPS it would strongly encourage teachers to leave after 13th year.

To reach and agreement, they will need to talk about all issues and barriers to quality teaching including financials, time, and peer assistance and review (ie a better program for evaluating, mentoring and assisting teachers who are struggling)

We're ready to talk whenever the district is ready to have meaningful conversations about all of these issues.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day 1 of Mediation

The district (after over a week) finally agreed to bring in a mediator to try and get us to a resolution before the end of the year. Steve Muller was the facilitator in our workgroup meetings over the last few months, and is shifting into a mediator role. We met all day today at the Ad. Bldg. and exchanged economic proposals, and are scheduled to meet again tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. to continue talking about time, money, discipline, and other issues. Here's Lawrence talking economics...

As I've been in buildings this week, the amount of support from our members is great! The bargaining team and I appreciate how informed people are, and want to thank our Association Reps for keeping up on the issues and passing the information on to teachers. Stay tuned to the hotline for more info... 303-831-6209!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Well, we've passed our May 1st deadline, and still no agreement. The stakes are high... DPSRS/PERA merger talks are still happening, DPS wants to go for a mill/bond this fall, and the DNC is in our backyard in August. You would think that there would be some interest in getting a quick resolution...

Our bargaining team has spent over 400 hours in negotiations, and our interests are still not being addressed to our satisfaction regarding salary, time, and discipline. Yes, we have made some progress, and the issues are complex.

In order to get a new agreement ratified before the end of school, our members would need to get their ballots at our May 20th Rep Council meeting...

We're back at the table on Monday evening, and have scheduled talks for Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday afternoon, the district did agree to try and get a mediator in to help us. We made this request over a week ago. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

NBPTS Renewal!

On April 30th, I mailed my "Box" in to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards! I certified in 1999, and this was my first opportunity to attempt renewal as a Middle Childhood Generalist. ( National Board Certification must be renewed every 10 years.

Since November, I have had the pleasure of working with Carrie Olson's 6th grade Literacy Skills class, at Kepner MS. Reconnecting with students continues to be a wonderful experience. I taught the Reading Advantage progran, working with the Level A students... kinda. (Do you really think I could stick to a script??)

The renewal process entails a "Profile of Professional Growth". It requires teachers to document 4 Professional Growth Experiences that have shaped their careers as a learner, mentor, and professional educator. It's kind of like a portfolio including narratives, reflections, a body of evidence, and video of your teaching.
After 5 months of hard work, my portfolio was shipped off to Texas, and now the harder part... waiting until November for the results!

My brother...

Thanks to all of you that have been asking about my brother. I got another email from him today, and he seems to be doing well.
He says, "I am doing fine over here. I have been pretty busy for a while. Today was a little bit slower. I had 3 days in Fallujah, and now I am back to the regular job. Here is a photo from the trip."
Please keep Chip and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

May 1st Rally!

On May 1st, around 1000 of my closest friends and colleagues rallied outside the Administration Building, calling for the end to stalled contract negotiations. Our Bargaining Team has spent over 400 hours negotiating a new contract.

Click here to see a Denver Post Rally video:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Unfair Labor Practices~ DPS at it again!

Yesterday afternoon, we had a great conversation with the district around issues of time. Our team was in a caucus discussing the district's proposal, when we received the letter from MFB, Jaime, and Tom. I'm still trying to be nice... so I won't tell you what our team had to say about it!

With negotiations, we're not supposed to discuss any details/ substance of proposals from DPS or DCTA. This is the second time in a week that DPS has violated this practice.

The DCTA Bargaining Team is committed to reaching a settlement by May 1st that includes comparable increases for the ProComp AND traditional salary schedule, along with addressing issues of time and discipline.

DPS should focus on the table talks instead of putting out rhetoric to our members.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Crunch time!

Well, we're a little more than a week out from our May 1 settlement deadline...

At our request/demand, the district scheduled more time this week to try and accomplish this goal. Our DCTA Bargaining Team has spent (literally) every day this past week working either as a team, with the district, or with our Board of Directors. We're bargaining with DPS on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Solidarity Day was a success last Friday! Here's a picture of the Amesse staff. Thanks to our rep, Eric Rapp, for his leadership! I also got a call from a high school rep... the principal was really perturbed that the staff was wearing their "I Support the DCTA Bargaining Team" stickers. The rep even got yelled at for it!
Keep those emails and unity activities coming...
Sign our petition at
Send a card or poster to our team via school mail to DCTA , or US Mail to 1500 Grant St. Suite 200; Denver, CO 80203.
ATTEND OUR RALLY! May 1st at 900 Grant Street!
United we stand!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Board of Education Meeting

I just wanted to say thank you to all of our members that came to show support for the DCTA Bargaining Team. Once again, we made our presence known, and our members did an amazing job speaking about the issues we are facing:
Josh Schacterle (Lincoln HS), Jennifer Portillo (DCIS), Sallie Baker (Hill MS), Margaret Bobb (Randolph School), Sarah Ziesenis (CEC), Dave Engelken (East HS), and Pam Knott (Holm Elem.)
I want to especially recognize the Bargaining Support Team, and Pablo Irlando-Wildman, DCTA UniServ Director, for doing such a great job organizing our efforts!

I gotta go wash cabbage- right Pam? (I guess you had to be at the Board Meeting to understand that one...)

Are you ready to RALLY?? See you May 1st!

DCTA School Proposal Submitted!

Based on what we know works for students, we unveiled our Promoting School Success initiative 9 months ago. Our teachers told us that the 3 key elements to improving student success are:

Safe and Orderly Schools-implementing a consistent discipline policy,
Interventions for Struggling Students- including the elimination of social promotion, and
Creating a Parent & Teacher Alliance- working together for students

We remain committed to providing a great public school for every child through a rigorous academic program so that we can prepare our students to become 21st century leaders.

To affirm this commitment, we are proud to announce that DCTA submitted a Letter of Intent today through the district's RFP Process. We are proposing to operate and manage a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Leadership Academy. It will be a school in which students will acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to succeed in a knowledge-based global economy and become 21st century leaders.

Our team will spend the next month talking with parents, community, and other experts as we develop our full RFP proposal. If approved, we would be the only teacher union run school in the state.

Read more about it at:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DPSRS/PERA "Combination"

On April 17th (my twins' 6th birthday, btw), a bill will be introduced regarding a "combination" (a.k.a. merger) of the DPS Retirement System with PERA! This legislation would permit the two systems to begin talking and attempt to reach an agreement by September 15th, with the systems combining by the beginning of 2009.

Third time's a charm?
As you may know, this has been attempted twice before, and failed. This time, the proposal is very different, and shows great promise. DPS, PERA, DPSRS, and DCTA/CEA have been working hard to get this bill finalized and introduced. Our lobbyists, Dan Daly and Tony Salazar, have spent hours working on the conditions necessary for a merger, and working with all of the parties to iron out the details of the legislation. We want to ensure that no DPSRS or PERA member is negatively harmed; creating a neutral transaction. DCTA & CEA are supporting this bill.

A special thanks to our DPSRS Trustees from DCTA and our ESP Coalition~ especially Amy Grant, DAEOP Co-President and Chair of the DPSRS Board of Trustees, and John MacPherson, DCTA-R President, current Trustee, and past Executive Director of DPSRS.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Right to Work... for LESS!

Yesterday afternoon, I was grocery shopping at my neighborhood King Soopers. (...with 4 kids, it's a very big event) As I was leaving, I was asked to sign a petition. Of course, I had to ask what the petition was for. The young man said it was "to stop those rich politicians from receiving $100,000 contributions." Intrigued, I actually read the petition. Unfortunately, the information he was giving was incorrect! The petition would prevent union members from having dues deducted from their paychecks. (BTW~ union membership and dues deduction is voluntary for DCTA/CEA members).

As a proud union member, I of course gave him a piece of my mind, and told him that the information he was sharing was untrue, and that I was going to report him. I left a message for our friend, Carmen Rhodes at FRESC. I then returned to King Soopers and asked to speak with the UFCW steward, Steph. She called the UFCW business agent to report it.

Union membership is a choice in Colorado, as is dues deduction. No one should be able to take the right to organize away from us. Check out CEA's website for more information at:

or UFCW Local 7 :

"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as 'right-to-work.' It provides no 'rights' and no 'works.' Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining... We demand this fraud be stopped."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Denver UniServ at CEA Delegate Assembly!

We spent the last 3 days with our 600 closest colleagues at the 82nd Annual CEA Delegate Assembly! Denver was represented by 60+ members of DCTA, DAEOP, and DCTA-R. We debated new business items, heard from Governor Ritter, Commissioner Dwight Jones, Mark Udall, and our own Speaker Romanoff.

DCTA was quite active at the microphone, and I was told we were the loudest delegation :)
I guess we're getting pretty good at making our feelings known inside and outside of "Team NEA".

DUU ran and passed 3 new business items!
First, establishing a program to train our members to run for political office: We know that we could use more friends at the capitol!
Second, the establishment of a Human and Civil Rights protocol at CEA: This will ensure that issues related to diversity, minority community outreach, ELLs, ethnic minorities, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender), social justice, and human & civil rights are addressed by our state association. Colorado did not have a "formal" forum for addressing these issues that we take very seriously.
Finally, we proposed an item that will develop a proactive education reform agenda at the state level (WOW!!). The Teaching and Learning Committee will be charged with publishing CEA's agenda for creating a Great Public School for Every Child. Using this white paper, CEA will promote our agenda on the hill, in the media, with coalitions, and in our locals. We, at DCTA, have long championed union led reform (with our colleagues at the Teacher Union Reform Network), and are thrilled that our colleagues across the state are now embracing this push for innovation.

We also had a wonderful tribute celebration for our Executive Director Bruce Dickinson following his receipt of the Lion Advocacy Award. Our delegation was joined by many past DCTA leaders and CEA colleagues.

In election news, Ann Franco (Colfax Elem.) was elected to represent us on the CEA Board, and Lloyd Bourdon (McGlone Elem.) was elected as her alternate on the Board. Mark Chavez (Boulder Valley EA) and I were re-elected to the NEA Resolutions Committee. Melissa Walsh (Westminster EA) and I were elected Co-Chairs of the Council of Association Presidents.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tonight starts the 2008 CEA Delegate Assembly! Approximately 600 educators from across the state will debate issues and set the direction of CEA for the coming year. Denver will bring 60 delegates. We will be honoring our long time Executive Director, Bruce Dickinson, with the CEA Lion Advocacy Award!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thanks, Bob! LOL

Did you like the "Thanks, Bob" commercial? Check this one out!

Bargaining Begins!

Today is Day 4 of Bargaining! Our DCTA Team has spent hours talking to teachers, and getting feedback regarding issues facing our teachers and Specialized Service Providers in DPS. Show your support for the team by signing our online petition at

Also, check out our Bargaining Update hotline at 303-831-6209.