LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education and the union representing most of the district’s teachers have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, the Jefferson County Teachers Association announced Wednesday.

The deal, which must be ratified by JCTA members before it heads to the school board for approval, would provide financial incentives for teachers in struggling JCPS schools, according to a summary released by JCTA. The agreement calls for a 1 percent raise for all teachers over the first two years and additional salary negotiations in the final three.

The tentative agreement redefines priority schools as enhanced support schools, which would include priority school and those on the brink of attaining that status. Those teaching in enhanced support schools, which number 1,700 according to JCTA, would receive $1,600 annual stipends that increase by $400 every five years a teacher works in the lowest-performing JCPS schools.

Educators who chose to transfer to an enhanced support school would receive a one-time $1,000 stipend, and teachers in low-performing schools would receive an extra five paid days of professional development beginning in the 2019-20 school year. Teachers who aren’t good fits at such schools can also be reassigned by JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio to another school.

JCPS and JCTA also pledged to explore reducing class sizes in enhanced support schools, and the deal allows principals at those schools to actively recruit teachers seeking transfers, who may identify up to five low-performing schools for transfers. That’s in addition to the five schools that teachers hoping to transfer can list.

JCTA President Brent McKim said the deal represents “a very comprehensive package” for JCPS teachers and students, specifically those in low-performing schools. He estimated that the stipends for teachers in low-performing schools would cost about $2.7 million per year and that the district would spend a similar amount to provide the extra five paid days of professional development in the second year of the tentative five-year contract.

“It really devotes significant district resources toward helping our schools where students are struggling the most while at the same providing for modest raises for all of our teachers,” McKim told WDRB News.

McKim said JCTA had pushed for similar provisions to benefit those in priority schools for the past decade, but those were dismissed as too expensive. Some critics of the current collective bargaining agreement have said JCPS should provide incentives to attract teachers to priority schools, but McKim said such talk played a minor role in contract negotiations.

“I think it’s less about responding and more about a shared sense of commitment to do everything we can,” he said.

The next step for JCTA is putting the tentative agreement before its membership for ratification. McKim said the union’s board of directors voted to support the deal by “an overwhelming” margin.

“There’s something for just about every category of teacher that provides them more support or addresses an issue or concern, so I think there’s something in there for everyone, and we’re optimistic it will be ratified by the membership,” McKim said.

In the summary document, JCTA said it hoped to have the agreement ratified in time for the school board’s meeting on Tuesday.

McKim said the tentative deal addresses concerns raised by the Kentucky Department of Education’s 14-month audit of JCPS, which led interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis to recommend state management for the district. That’s currently being appealed by the school board, but both sides are engaged in settlement discussions to avoid that 12-day hearing and any legal fallout that might come.

Particular provisions related to the audit findings include staffing at priority schools, giving teachers more flexibility in scheduling professional development after school hours and providing ongoing professional development on the use of restraint and seclusion on students, bullying prevention, restorative practices, diversity training and other areas.

“The agreement addresses many issues raised by the state, and so we certainly hope that the state would be pleased to see that it is us doing our part to help address issues that have been identified as challenges for the district,” McKim said.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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