South Park School in Fairplay

This sprawling complex in Fairplay is home to South Park High School and South Park Middle School. (Photo courtesy of PCSD RE-2)

Unsuccessful teacher’s salary negotiations have prompted an emotionally-charged dispute between Park County School District RE-2 and its educators.

PCSD RE-2 encompasses Edith Teter Preschool, Edith Teter Elementary School, South Park Middle School and South Park High School, all of which are located in Fairplay.

The district also includes Lake George Community Charter School and Guffey Community Charter School.

Students attending schools within PCSD RE-2 reside in Fairplay, Alma, Como, Jefferson, Hartsel, Guffey and Lake George.

A press release dated July 1 by the Colorado Education Association, a statewide federation of teacher and educational workers labor unions, and the South Park Education Association, an organization representing and comprised primarily of teachers within the district, stated that PCSD RE-2 had allowed its contract with educators to expire as of June 30, and that the district was unwilling to negotiate a new deal.

About 90 teachers within the district stand to be impacted by the ongoing dispute.

The PCSD RE-2 board of directors, however, released a statement July 31 claiming that it had enacted a salary scale that gave raises to all teachers, and that the base salary was increased by 6.5 percent. The board also maintained that it had included additional provisions that resulted in a 9.2 percent increase to the base salary.

Frustrations surrounding stalemated negotiations spilled onto Front Street in Fairplay Friday, Aug. 1, and later directly in front of the PCSD RE-2 Administrative Office, as protestors carrying an SPEA banner marched together chanting “We have to use our teacher’s voice; you’ve left us no choice.”

A review of the statements released by PCSD RE-2 and CEA further suggests that the distance between the negotiating entities, and the range of issues in dispute, are considerable.

According to information within the statements, the next mutually-agreed date of continued negotiations is set to occur Aug. 23. As of press time Tuesday, no further progress between PCSD and its teachers had been reported.

Both public statements, in their entirety, beginning with that released by the CEA in the interest of SPEA, are as follows:

CEA Press Release

July 1, 2019

Park County RE-2 School District Allows Contract with its Educators to Expire

School District Unwilling to Negotiate with Educators

Yesterday, June 30, the contract for 90 educators of the Park County School District RE-2 expired and the school board has been unwilling, thus far, to negotiate a new deal. The contract establishes terms and conditions for the learning and working conditions for students and educators. Park County educators’ salaries rank 131st out of Colorado’s 178 school districts and the county ranks 33rd in the state in cost of living, yet the district continues to maintain 72 percent in reserves, although only 3 percent is required by Colorado state law.

“We have one of the least competitive salaries in the state and the district is unwilling to do what’s right. We’re losing good teachers and paraprofessionals every year because they can’t afford to make ends meet in our community. It’s no wonder why nearly half of all South Park educators work two or more jobs. The district has the ability to pay us a living wage, but they aren’t transparent and won’t tell us why they stockpile 72 percent in their reserves,” said South Park Education Association President Taya Mastrobuono.

While the SPEA and the district have had a contract for the past 15 years, the school board has never been willing to negotiate salary and has not negotiated a new contract with the union for the 2019-2020 school year. The district allowed the current contract to expire and has not indicated if or when negotiations will resume.

“We are simply asking that the district extend our current contract so that we can meet with a mediator to help us work together in the best interest of our students,” Mastrobuono continued. “We have a mutual interest – our students – and they deserve it.”

A mediation session between the district and SPEA is tentatively scheduled for August 23, 2019, though the district has refused to indicate whether they are willing to come to the table to negotiate salary or not.

Park County School District RE-2 Press Release

July 31, 2019

To our Teachers, Neighbors, Community, Parents and Students:

I write this letter from a place of great sadness and frustration. We, the Board of Directors for the Park County School District RE-2 (the District), have been working diligently since February to resolve our disagreements with the South Park Education Association (SPEA). In February, we reached an agreement with SPEA’s leadership to extend the Professional Agreement for two years and continue the meet-and-confer process to address teacher salaries on an annual basis. Unfortunately, and for reasons we really don’t fully understand, SPEA’s membership decided not to ratify this agreement. Thus, the Professional Agreement expired by its own terms on June 30, 2019.

As is required by Colorado law, the District had to adopt an annual budget and salary scale by June 30. The Board complied with this requirement and enacted a salary scale that gave raises to all teachers. The base salary was increased by 6.5 percent, plus an annual step, that resulted in a 9.2 percent increase to the base salary. Teachers have a fully funded benefits package, plus other benefits, such as number of work days (153), annual step and lane amounts, professional development, and general leave time that compares very favorably to other, similarly-situated school districts in Colorado. The District was able to provide these raises substainably, without cutting other benefits or engaging in deficit spending to meet ongoing demands.

In the months that have passed, we have been working hard to try to resolve our points of disagreement. We thought we had agreed to mediate with John Numair, the former head of the Colorado Division of Labor, on August 23. Unfortunately, SPEA still has not confirmed attendance at this mediation.

Last week, we asked Mr. Numair to try to schedule another mediation in order to work through our disagreements sooner. We thought we agreed to another private meeting on August 5, in addition to private mediation on August 23.

We have also repeatedly tried to set regular meetings with SPEA, including proposals to meet on August 1, August 7, August 16, and August 23, 2019. However, each time we tried to schedule meetings to work through our points of disagreement, our requests were met with conditions that were never part of the Professional Agreement.

Today, the day before the August 1 meeting, we received an email from SPEA’s lawyer that calls these mediations into doubt. As we read this email, SPEA is requiring the District to expressly commit to terms that were never part of the Professional Agreement to continue with mediation. This runs contrary to our prior agreements to mediate. We are afraid that this will result in a meeting similar to what occurred in other school districts, where things quickly broke down into a negative and destructive yelling match. We cannot participate in such a process here.

We all - teachers and board members alike - are neighbors, friends and community members. We all took on our respective roles for the betterment of the children in our community. We are supposed to be role models.

It is clear to us that we need the help of a qualified mediator to aid us in resolving our disagreements. We need to accomplish this with respect, dignity, and good faith. We need to show our children that disagreements are resolved by communication and collaboration, not yelling or shouting. We owe this to our students, our community, and to each other. In light of SPEA’s most recent conditions, the District is unable to go forward with the August 1 meeting. We beg of SPEA and our teachers: please agree to mediate with us in private, as we thought we previously agreed on August 6 to continue to work through this issue before school starts later this month.

Sincerely yours,

Kim H. Bundgeard, M.Ed.

President: Board of Directors

Park County School District RE-2

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