JCPS schools hold walk-ins to protest salary freeze, code of conduct proposals

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Teachers, employees and parents at several JCPS schools wore red and participated in walk-ins this morning after the district threatened to freeze salaries, and change the code of conduct.

More than 80 walk-ins are planned for this week, with six today, and about a dozen tomorrow.

It was a sea of red during walk-ins outside several JCPS schools Monday. Educators, staff and parents gathered to protest of recent plans announced by the district: loosening punishments for in-school offenses and freezing salaries of some JCPS employees, including bus drivers and teachers.

"We feel like some of the decisions that have been made by the board are decisions that are not going to help our students stay safe, or help us as teachers," said Peggy Helm, a teacher at Crosby Middle School. 

Helm teaches 7th grade at Crosby Middle School. She participated in the school's walk-in, and says teacher morale is at an all-time low.

"We can't do our job if we do not feel supported," Helm said. 

Detrick Johnson, a parent of a Crosby seventh grader agrees.

"I think educators aren't paid enough already," Johnson said. 

And Johnson says the idea of a less strict code of conduct is upsetting. He says that's why "it's important that parents step up."

A similar scene played out at Bowen Elementary with the staff wearing red and gathering before school for their walk-in. One parent says he hopes the most recent proposals from JCPS won't be enough for some teachers to call it quits.

"My daughter, she loves her teacher to death," said Eddie Tudor. "And if her teacher decided to walk out and they bring in somebody else who doesn't really know what's going on, she'll be lost."

Teachers like Helm say students are already being affected.

"Not only does it affect them that they're not going to be able to learn but it's disruptive to the whole learning environment for the entire school," Helm said. 

The walk-ins were discussed during last week's emergency meeting of the Jefferson County Teachers Association's organizing committee, but officials with three of the other unions who represent the district's employees tell WDRB News they will participate.

Aside from the walk-ins and encouraging employees to wear red Monday, union representatives tell WDRB they are encouraging all of their members to attend the JCPS school board meeting on May 10.

Six schools had walk-ins on Monday: Crosby Middle School, Bowen Elementary School, Coleridge Taylor Elementary School, Semple Elementary School and Farmer Elementary School.

In response to the protests, JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens released the following statement on Monday:

We respect and value our JCPS teachers and staff, and appreciate their hard work and dedication to the success of our students.  We must work together to review the current salary structure in the district and develop a new Code of Conduct that is fair and provides clear expectations and consequences for behavior. 

An independent consultant group conducted a salary study that was presented to the board.  It found JCPS is paying premium salaries to teachers.  That is good news and something we want to continue in order to attract and retain the best teachers.  The study also found JCPS is paying above market salaries for more than 7,000 other positions.  A Community Advisory Team (CAT) observed that the district may consider not increasing salaries, subject to negotiations, until a path forward is developed to achieve internal and external equity. 

Regarding the Code of Conduct, a committee has worked for several months to help update our code and ensure it is fair and provides clear expectations and clear consequences for behavior.  The committee only provided an update on its work to the board.  The work is not done and there is no final recommendation.  The ultimate goal is to make the code more clear, concise, consistent and proactive to better serve our students and staff.


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