School District 51's Board of Education approved a nearly 5 percent raise for teachers and employees Tuesday night in ratifying a new agreement with the Mesa Valley Education Association.
Previous negotiations included some hard conversations, said union President Heather O'Brien, including navigating how a controversial administration reorganization and steep raises for top leaders last year had broken trust.
"It's difficult when there's a broad public perception that there was this betrayal and breach of trust and that certainly happened to an extent, but a few people felt that the district really owes us something big this year," O'Brien said. "But when you look at the budget in depth, we negotiated as much as we possibly could for salaries. I think overall our membership was very pleased with that."
The raises are broken into a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and a 1.6 percent and $500 increase to base salaries for teachers.
The salary increase is broken down into a percent and dollar amount so that it benefits early and late-career teachers, O'Brien said.
Other district staff will see similar raises except for district administrators, whose salaries are frozen for one year.
O'Brien said a small group of teachers were dismayed with the amount and wanted a 10 percent raise, similar to what the Denver Classroom Teachers Association negotiated after a three-day strike in February.
"But over two years on average teachers have gotten a 10 percent raise and we didn't have to strike, kids didn't have to miss school and there weren't hard feelings because colleagues had crossed picket lines," O'Brien said. "I think in the long run, maintaining good rapport with the school board and the district is important because we get a lot done with less damage then DPS had."
The contract also added a section on financial transparency, requiring any unplanned revenue the district receives be reviewed with union leaders before it's spent.
"If we had had that kind of transparency last spring, last fall wouldn't have happened," O'Brien said.
School board President Tom Parrish said the agreement represents a common goal from the district and MVEA to increase teacher pay.
"I think both sides realized that it's in both of our interests to recruit and retain good teachers for children, and we knew that we had to begin to address our salary schedule to do that," Parrish said.
"I think we were all on the same page, but as usual with limited resources we had some very serious conversations about where we could find the money," he said.