JCPS employees, parents slam district over recommended salary freeze
JCPS parents, teachers and other employees are slamming the district over a recommendation to freeze the salaries of some workers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- One day after a comprehensive salary review was released by Jefferson County Public Schools, dozens of parents, teachers and other employees are slamming the district over a recommendation to freeze the salaries of some workers.
"Morale is already bad and we already have a high turnover," said John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783. "There is no student discipline. Now you are telling them they are overpaid and you plan to freeze their salary. Who wants to drive a school bus? Who wants to work for the school board, period, when you have leadership like this?"
The 1,000-page study was released during a Tuesday evening work session with the Jefferson County Board of Education, saying that JCPS is paying its employees more money than comparable districts.
JCPS employees were not told about the results of the study until about 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, ten minutes before the report and recommendations were shared with the school board.
"My phone started burning up, kept getting phone calls and texts asking me why we are allowing JCPS to freeze their wages," Stovall said. "At first it caught me off-guard. I didn't know what they were talking about. Then I looked on the news. That's how I find out about anything lately."
Two other unions that represent thousands of other district employees -- the Jefferson County Teachers Association and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- also tell WDRB News that they were not informed about the study prior to it being publicly released.
DeeAnn Flaherty, executive director of JCTA, said most teachers were still in faculty meetings on Tuesday afternoon when the email was sent -- and that many found that the note had gone into their junk mail folder.
"We knew they were going to talk about salaries, but did not know they were going to propose a freeze," Flaherty said.
Jennifer Brislin, a JCPS spokeswoman, says "the report was in draft status until it was presented to the board."
"The unions will be involved as we move forward in this process," Brislin said.
The district will bring several recommendations to the school board in the next month.
- At the May 10 meeting, the board will be asked to approve recommendation that there be no step or cost of living increase in 2016-17 for all employees earning more than $14 an hour. In addition, the district will seek authorization from the board to negotiate a percentage increase for all employees earning less than $14 an hour in 2016-17.
- At the May 24 meeting, the board will be presented with a plan for the study of a performance-based pay system and market reconciliation for certified administrators and classified staff. Alternatives could include a two-tier system that is similar to General Electric and Ford and/or freezing associates' pay when they reach the top of their range.
- In addition, the district will ask the board to initiate software evaluation and purchase for a local market pay assessment and a performance measuring software. Officials will also ask the board to re-market and expand the district's Tuition Assistance Program for classified employees to get their teaching degree and be part of the 55,000 degree program.
"I am shocked and appalled -- I'm not sure how the district can be OK with this," says Terrilyn Flemming, a teacher at Central High School. "I feel really undervalued as a person."
"If the teachers suffer, the students will end up suffering too," she said. "Whether it's larger class sizes or less time we can spend with them -- it's always the kids who get it at the end."
Flemming has been teaching for 20 years and came to JCPS seven years ago -- partially because of the competitive salary.
"I could have gone anywhere to teach, I'm a really good teacher," she said. "I chose to come to JCPS."
Flemming also says that the district's lower-salaried workers should be valued, as well.
"I don't think they should not get a raise," she said. "But I don't think the teachers should suffer, either. I think they can find that money somewhere in the middle of the district."
The review, which cost the district $192,000, was conducted by Virginia-based Management Advisory Group International Inc., following the 2014 audit of JCPS by Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen.
It found that JCPS pays premium salaries to its teachers providing a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining quality instructors and that more than 7,353 positions in JCPS are at or above the maximum of the market pay range.
Parents like Tiffany Baker worry that the way district leadership is handling things like the student code of conduct recommendations and the salary study, it will drive teachers and other employees away.
"I don't want to see my kids lose these teachers that they've grown to love and cherish and appreciate," said Baker, who is also part of the advocacy group Dear JCPS. "I don't want to see those teachers walk."
JCTA sent out an "urgent" message to the community, asking parents, students and teachers to take action:
Tonight the JCPS Board heard district proposals to freeze employee salaries at the current level and to revise the Code of Student Conduct by eliminating the possibility of suspension for a number of serious student offenses including theft, vandalism, vulgarity, fighting, drugs and alcohol, and inappropriate sexual behavior short of assault or abuse. JCTA believes that these proposals show a serious disrespect for our hard working educators and a disregard for all they do on a daily basis to teach children and serve JCPS families.
On Wednesday, JCTA scheduled an emergency meeting of its organizing committee for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, saying the focus is "collective action on salaries and the JCPS discipline code."
Stovall says he's tired of not being included with important decisions the district makes.
"They've isolated themselves on an island," he said. "Everyone else is out there and they feel they only have to tell us what they want to tell us. There is no communication. They filter out what they want to filter out and you always have to read between the lines."
Stovall said while school workers can't strike, there are other actions they can take.
"You can't really strike, but there are job options we can take," he said. "We will explore every option we have to."
Flaherty said JCTA will do the same.
"We are going to mobilize our teachers and turn their energy into action to keep this plan from becoming their reality," she said.
In addition, the AFSCME Local 962, which represents instructional aids, lunchroom assistants, school secretaries and bus monitors, is also planning to rally at the May 10 school board meeting.
"We need all members to attend the next school board meeting to show that we are UNITED in our efforts for better wages for our members," the message read.
- JCPS releases comprehensive salary study, could freeze salaries
- JCPS student discipline policies may ease
- Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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