Board member: Teachers’ jobs solid
A District 51 School Board member says teachers should not fear that the Nov. 5 election will result in pink slips for them, regardless of who wins.
Board member Jeff Leany said during board open comment at a meeting last week that two teachers called him and said they were afraid for their jobs after attending two meetings recently at Rim Rock Elementary. Leany said the teachers told him a member of teacher representation group Mesa Valley Education Association told them all teachers would be fired, then hired back at a lower pay rate and the association’s agreement with the school district would be thrown out if the three Republican-endorsed candidates in the upcoming school board election were elected.
Those candidates are Pat Kanda in District C, who is running against newly appointed board member John Williams and Lonnie White; Mike Lowenstein in District D, who is facing Tom Parrish; and John Sluder in District E, who is up against Board President Greg Mikolai.
Leany asked Superintendent Steve Schultz and association President Darren Cook to verify at the Sept. 17 school board meeting that the association’s contract with the district is binding for the next three years, although terms are negotiated annually. Leany said afterward that comments about plans to fire teachers if Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder joined Leany and Ann Tisue on the board are lies.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s fear tactics to get people to vote the way the union wants,” Leany said.
Cook said he had not heard about the comments until Sept. 17. He said he has yet to determine if anything inaccurate was stated, but comments about contract dismissal do not reflect association views.
“There are 900 (association) teachers, and we don’t speak with one voice,” Cook said.
Cook said the person who may have made those comments could have been referring to the possibility of District 51 seeking to emulate Falcon School District 49.
Falcon 49, northeast of Colorado Springs, implemented zones of innovation last school year, eliminating four administrative roles, replacing the superintendent with a chief executive officer and splitting schools into zones that have autonomy to ask for waivers to change teacher employment and salary conditions.
Leany said some board members have looked at Falcon 49’s changes but there has been “no serious talk about schools or zones of innovation.” Leany said Falcon is just one district he has researched.
“We can’t continue to do the same things we’re doing,” Leany said. “Douglas County is 15 points ahead of us (on Transitional Colorado Assessment Program scores). Why wouldn’t we want to emulate that?”
Kanda, Sluder and Lowenstein said they are interested in changing local education but haven’t settled on a method for doing so. Sluder said he would want input from teachers and staff before adopting anything like a zone of innovation system, and Kanda said innovation doesn’t necessarily mean adopting new methods.
“We need to be innovative in the way we look at trying to improve education, but I’m old school. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” Kanda said.
All three said firing teachers is not a priority in their platforms.
“The union has a contract and we can’t just willy-nilly start firing people. It’s a scare tactic,” Lowenstein said.