On top of the teaching world

Teachers new to Douglas County overwhelmingly appreciated the session offered by the Douglas County Federation (DCF) on Beginning of the Year Classroom Management at DCSD’s new teacher orientation in August. This session was a sliver of the complete course, Foundations of Effective Teaching, which is only a fraction of the professional development courses the DCF is able to offer the district’s educators. Over 96% of participants had positive comments about the course in the evaluation, most echoing sentiments such as this one: As a new teacher it was some of the most important information I needed – what I really wanted to know, or this: I enjoyed the empowerment. I left feeling like I was on top of the teaching world.


For too many years the DCF, and all its research-based professional programs, has been shut out of the district, unable to provide high quality professional development to their peers. Beyond courses on classroom management, reading, math, instructional strategies, and others, we have had opportunities for teachers to learn the best way to use technology in the classroom from a trainer from Google trainers, as well as a lawyer specializing in Special Education Law present and answer questions about meeting the needs of students on IEPs or 504s. Unfortunately, the teachers who weren’t members had no way of knowing about these and other opportunities. 


Starting in 1994, the opportunity to work in cooperation with the district resulted in a positive impact on teachers and their students. This is what has been missing in Douglas County for the past seven years, and with the new commitment to partner with the DCF to offer our Foundations of Effective Teaching course, we feel hopeful that we can guide teachers to use research based best-practices in their classrooms. We hope that teachers in DCSD feel supported and will choose to make this district their career destination. 


The DCF has said for years that it can deliver professional learning programs that can help teachers teach and students learn–at no cost to the district other than paying their own employees for their time to facilitate the course. It is a positive step that the DCF was finally allowed to share only a fraction of the research-based learning programs it is ready to provide.  Now we need to ensure teachers have access to all of these lessons—their students deserve that.

Supporting our new teachers

On July 31, new teachers in DCSD were given the opportunity to learn from veteran educators about classroom management and specifically, the first day of school. The Douglas County Federation presented research about how to effectively set a culture that allows for strong social emotional learning for students, and gave the new teachers tools they can use on the first day of school. The DCF members who taught the class and the ones who assisted were excited to spend a day with the many first-year teachers in attendance, as well as the veterans who are new to DCSD. Many of the attendees told us told us how much they appreciated and enjoyed the session. Our message is simple: the DCF’s role is to support new teachers however they need–we want all new employees to make DCSD their career destination district. 

Unfortunately, while the new teachers had the opportunity to learn about Air Academy Credit Union and STEP-Emergenetics, who had tables at the new teacher orientation, the Douglas County Federation was not allowed to have a table at this event. We were excited to share valuable information with new teachers about research and best practices for meeting the needs of students. We wanted to inform teachers about supporting students with Autism, questions that promote scientific inquiry and engineering design, about teaching with project based learning, and more. It’s disappointing that new teachers weren’t able to receive this information from us on their first day in our district. 

Share My Lesson is an especially helpful resource for new teachers, and veterans–where everyone can find innovative teacher-created lessons (like Teachers Pay Teachers–but free). One of our members has uploaded 68 lessons onto the site! Look for lessons about the first day of school! https://sharemylesson.com/

We would love to get information to new (and veteran) teachers. If you want to learn more, let us know by sending us an email

*Healing after tragedy RESOURCES Page*

Each school shooting has a profound effect on us as educators. After the shooting at Columbine High School, I didn’t think I had the right to feel traumatized. A therapist explained to me the concentric circles of trauma–where the center is the people injured or involved, and each ring of the circle is the community directly surrounding the center. What I know about today’s shooting is that we are all pretty close to the center of the trauma, as community members, friends, relatives, and educators in the same district. You have permission to feel however you feel. It’s ok to feel angry, sad, terrified, rage, heartbreak, numb, disconnected, depressed, or any other feeling–or all of them. We feel for our colleagues at STEM. We feel for our entire community.

In order to be of service to our students, families, colleagues, and community, we must take care of ourselves. It’s hard to know what that means sometimes, but I encourage all of you to focus on that.

The Douglas County Federation is here to support all of our community of educators, members and non members. We want to be of service to the teachers and staff at STEM. If you need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to contact me at KaLeyba@DougCoFed.org.

In solidarity,

Kallie Leyba

Resources for Educators and Families:

Colorado-based resources:

Trauma Resource Information Sheets:

Share My Lesson has a traumatic events collection specifically around Helping Children Cope With Traumatic Events:

Supporting Grieving Children in Our Schools Webinar done with Coalition to Support Grieving Students:

Additional resources can be found on AFTs webpage here:

Commitment, Enthusiasm, Intelligence–three words to describe our members

The DCF held our spring general membership meeting on Wednesday night. The commitment, enthusiasm, and intelligence of our members were on full display. Here’s a quick rundown of the meeting:


  1.   As we all know, DCSD was closed on Wednesday because of a threat to schools in our area. About a dozen members came ninety minutes early to discuss how these events, and ones similar, affect them and their students. This productive conversation resulted in some concrete action steps that we believe, as professionals, we must take. Those who attended this discussion found it valuable and constructive.


  1.   At the opening of the full meeting, participants in the over-crowded and hot room heard something that has been missing from much of our school district for years—research on best educational practice and the truths it tells. Members heard how important having unfiltered educator voice is for student achievement. They saw the results of peer-reviewed studies that concluded time and time again that working in partnership with teachers and their unions is a powerful factor in a successful school system in the United States and around the world. More importantly, they saw how the loss of teacher voice in Douglas County has affected everything from student performance, investment in the classroom, and teacher and staff compensation.


  1.   After the presentation, the members received an update on the effort to bring collective bargaining back for teachers and classified staff. They clapped and shouted as those leading this grassroots efforts shared updated numbers and discussed the ongoing effort to ensure every teacher and classified employee is given the opportunity to sign the petition. The numbers are impressive, but nobody was overconfident or satisfied. They strongly agreed to continue the effort to gain more support and continue the highly-successful grassroots process in the schools. I don’t think there has been a more enthusiastic meeting of educators in the past ten years. It was a special moment.


  1.   Finally, the members heard from the DCF attorney who shared important details about the sick leave bank lawsuit. The current state of the case was discussed and options were discussed. Members also heard directly from two of the lead plaintiffs who shared their stories and the impact they and their families suffered as the result of the school district unilaterally stealing over 7,000 sick leave banks days from our members. The discussion was open and honest, with many points of view considered. Finally, the attorney asked the members who are part of the lawsuit to vote. Although the outcome of the vote is not yet known, I can say without hesitation that the feeling in the room was one of compassion and empathy. This was never about money, it was and will always be about educators taking care of each other.


As you can see, it was quite a night. I hope you get an opportunity to speak with someone who was there Wednesday night. I also hope you seek out and sign the petition to bring back collective bargaining if you haven’t already signed. As we see from the recent moves by the school board, just knowing there is a petition circulating out there has changed policy. Imagine what could happen for you and your students when we present thousands of educators’ signatures to the district.    


A snapshot of collective bargaining

The Douglas County School Board knows that teachers and staff are circulating petitions to ask for collective bargaining. They also know that this grassroots efforts has gathered thousands of signatures. Although not one signature has been turned in, the power of organizing–the simple act of educators talking to each other about collective bargaining–is resulting in some interesting changes from the board agenda this week.


For example, classified employees will now get up to three paid snow days. Now some may say this is a coincidence; but this issue has been just one of the numerous talking points petition leaders have been using when explaining to classified employees the benefits collective bargaining can bring.    


Imagine what teachers and staff can accomplish when we actually have a voice–when we all come together and have the respect we deserve.

Signals in DCSD Audits

As you probably know, teachers and classified staff are circulating a petition to bring back a collective bargaining agreement. If you haven’t already signed the petition, talk to others in your building or call us at the DCF office at 720-389-9829.

As we support this critical grassroots effort, we hear repeatedly many of the same questions regardless of the building members are visiting. I would like to quickly answer a few of the questions in this post.

  1. Why is it so important to have a collective bargaining agreement or CBA?

Teachers and staff must have an advocate at the table. Counting on others to represent you is not effective in ensuring your professional voice is heard. For example, when it comes to developing budgets, there are countless people representing every program and interest meeting with the superintendent and advocating for their financial needs. However, the groups that currently have no consequential voice in this process are the teachers and the classified staff. Think about it, the people most responsible for achieving the district’s core mission of educating the students are not represented in a meaningful way when it comes to the budgeting process.

  1. Can you show me how this makes a difference?

It is always hard to quantify the impact of any anything in a school district as large as Douglas County, but there are very strong signals that not having a CBA is having a significant impact on the staff. If you review the trend data in the audits (publicly available to anyone), there are some troubling results. Each year the audits show how much is actually spent on what is called “instructional services” by the district. As you can see from the graph below, when the teachers and staff lost collective bargaining, there was an immediate drop from about 54% to its current level of 49%. In other words, the piece of the pie that went to instructional service dropped by 5% in 5 short years. In an operating budget of over $579 million, that represents more than $26 million per year. That $26 million is now most likely being spent in other parts of the budget.

  1. What else do the audits show?

The district’s audits show how much money is budgeted for general items and how much money was actually spent. Following are the amounts budgeted, actually spent, and the variance for instructional services in the last six audits.

You will quickly notice that each and every year the amount budgeted for instructional services is never actually spent. That means the district budgets money into instructional services but doesn’t spend it for that purpose. A quick review of the ending balances in each of these years shows that many times this money is spent on other programs. This practice is misleading.

  1. Will have a CBA help with these trends?

YES. When you have a consequential voice at the table you can ask questions and advocate for your positions. You don’t have to hope someone is thinking about your interests. And this advocacy goes far beyond finances. You have a say in countless aspects of your working conditions and that translates directly to the learning conditions for students, such as class size. You have a voice in the type and quality of the professional development you receive. All of these reasons (and many more) are why every other metro Denver school district has a collective bargaining agreement for their educators. You should have a CBA too.

  1. What can I do to help get a CBA?

If there is a petition circulating in your building, sign it. If you are not sure call the DCF and ask one of the grassroots leaders to immediately come to your school and start the petition drive. Some may say the time is not right. If you want to see the trends in this district change, the time is now. Don’t hope for action, take action.



DCF Stands in solidarity with UTLA!

Yesterday hundreds of DCF members rocked their #Redfored in Solidarity with UTLA who began their first strike in 30 years. UTLA’s strike continues, and as you may have heard Denver’s teachers union (DCTA)  is also moving forward towards a possible strike.

Please keep an eye on your emails and texts as we will be engaging in more solidarity actions and hope that as each happens more and more people will participate.

As always – we encourage you to have fun showing your support and snap some photos to get back to us so we can share them – our brothers and sisters in LA and Denver appreciate the support and it helps to build bridges across our very large district as well.

Feel free to share our Solidarity collage on social media and with your friends and colleagues.

Want stickers buttons or #redfored swag for your school? Call or Text Chesca at 303-653-2661

UTLA Solidarity 1.14.19



Educators taking action in 2019, #RedforEd continues!

Monday January 13th 2019 stand in solidarity with LA educators who are going on strike for their students and their professions!

    Ways that you can show solidarity and support to stand with LA educators
  • Wear red on Monday January 14th
  • Text/Call/Email your colleagues and ask them to wear red too!
  • Show support on social media using hashtags #utlastrong #utlastrike #unionproud #redfored #unionstrong
  • Organize a group photo at your school and share out on social media – on your page and in the DCF group & Classrooms not corporations group

Educators from London, England send their support to UTLA

Want to learn more about why UTLA is taking it to the streets?





Want #Redfored buttons or stickers for your school? Call or Text Chesca – 303-653-2661

If not me, who? If not now, When?

We are 55 days from election day, and phone banking begins tonight!

Last year DCF members participated in more than 35 phone banks and we made over 30,000 calls to Douglas County voters.

This year there are 9 nights of phone banking scheduled – please don’t wait to get involved! 

Sign up today, and ask your colleagues to join you! 


DCF Fall 2018 Events Calendar – with link 9.11

To learn more about Colorado’s 2018  state-wide school funding Amendment #73 or to volunteer to support  Amendment #73 please click here: http://www.greatschoolsthrivingcommunities.org/


Professional Development for Teachers of Students with Disabilities

Nationally, 13 percent of all public school students receive some type of special education services.[1] Douglas County schools fall just below the national average, with approximately 7,000 of its 60,000 students receiving special education services.[2] There is a dearth of well-trained special education teachers in our country, and while research is limited in this area, it suggests a need for better preparation, professional development, and in-school supports.

McLeskey & Billingsley suggest that effective, research-based practices for teaching in special education exist but that there is little evidence that those practices are widely used. [3] One reason may be the lack of pre-service preparation and in-service professional development around special education practice. Another reason is the challenge facing many districts of keeping well-qualified special education teachers on staff. Research indicates instability in the special education teaching profession, with one in four special education teachers leaving his or her position each year. They also found evidence that poor working conditions such as heavy caseloads and lack of administrative support make it challenging for special education teachers to use evidence-based practices but that more research needed to be done to better understand how working conditions impact those teachers.

Mader reviewed several studies that showed how poorly teacher education programs prepared many teachers for supporting special education students.[4] General education teachers only took an average of 1.5 courses on inclusion or special education, and many teachers did not feel adequately prepared to implement individualized instruction. Inclusion has a demonstrated benefit to special education students, but teachers need time, support, and training to ensure that inclusion is effective. While change is needed in preparation programs to include more special education training, it is incumbent upon schools and districts to compensate for inadequate training through ongoing professional development.

A report by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Center on Learning Disabilities suggests that learning to meet the instructional needs of students with disabilities should begin in initial teacher preparation programs.[5] For all teachers already in the profession, states and districts should implement programs to ensure that all teachers are skilled in instructing diverse students. Too frequently, teacher preparation and licensure limits teachers to working with certain populations, and those teachers perceive themselves (or are perceived) as only being able to work with certain students. This can limit the number of teachers who feel qualified to work with students with disabilities, challenging a school’s ability to provide the least restrictive environment to those students. By ensuring that all teachers are equipped to teach a broader range of students, schools can better support those students and create stronger classroom communities for all learners.

Nearly all states have a shortage of special education teachers.[6] Too often, special education vacancies are filled with underprepared teachers. Carver-Thomas suggests strategies to build a pipeline of special education teachers to help fill shortages. One way is to offer scholarships or forgivable loans to teachers who earn special education certifications and a commitment to teaching in that field for a minimum number of years. Another strategy is to support “Grow Your Own” programs to recruit not only high school students but also community members and paraprofessionals into teaching. Teacher residencies can offer teacher training with a commitment to teach in high-needs schools and subject areas. States and districts can also offer incentives to help attract and retain experienced special education teachers.


[1] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp

[2] https://www.dcsdk12.org/cms/one.aspx?pageId=5755431

[3] McLeskey, J., & Billingsley, B.S. (2008). How does the quality and stability of the teaching force influence the research-to-practice gap? Remedial and Special Education, 29(5), 293-305.

[4] Mader, J. (2017). How teacher training hinders special-needs students. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/how-teacher-training-hinders-special-needs-students/518286/

[5] Blanton, Mugach, & Florian.

[6] Carver-Thomas, D. (2017). The special education teacher crisis: Who’s teaching our most vulnerable students? Learning Policy Institute, https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/blog/special-education-teacher-crisis-whos-teaching-our-most-vulnerable-students

Impact of Funding on Public Schools

In 1966, the Coleman Report found that there was no connection between per-pupil funding in schools and test performance.[1] Recent research, however, looks beyond standardized test results and finds that increasing school spending does have a positive outcome on students.

Researchers at the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research tracked tax-based school financing systems in 28 states between 1971 and 2010.[2] They found better educational outcomes for students in places that increased spending on K-12 education over time. Those outcomes included increased graduation rates and higher adult income for districts that increased per-pupil spending by 10 percent. Students in low-income areas benefited the most from increased spending. This study showed that it is important where the money is spent, with successful districts focusing spending on instruction and support services. Overall return on investment for student earnings was 1-to-2, supporting the notion that the benefit outweighs the initial cost.

Another study by Jackson, Johnson, and Persico also finds limitations with the Coleman study and finds that school funding does matter for long-term student outcomes especially for low-income students.[3]  The study found that increasing per-pupil spending by 10 percent for all twelve years of school increases the probability of high school graduation by 10 percentage points for children from low-income families and by 2.5 percent for other children. Additionally, that same 10 percent increase in spending for children from low-income families boosts adult hourly wages by 13 percent.

During the recession of 2007-09, many states cut their education budgets, and as of 2014-15, most of those states had not yet increased their spending back to the pre-recession amounts.[4] Thirty states provided less funding per student for the 2014-15 school year than they did before 2007, with 14 of those states having cut funding by more than 10 percent. These statewide funding cuts have serious consequences for school districts that cannot replace losses in state funding with local funding. On a national level, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been cut, hurting state and local economies. Teacher quality is a known factor in student success, and education cuts often lead to a decrease in teacher quality because funding is necessary to recruit, develop, and retain high-quality teachers. Low funding also leads to larger class sizes, which can hurt student achievement especially at the lower grade levels and for lower income students.

Budget cuts also mean schools have to trim extra learning opportunities that help student achievement such as full-day kindergarten.

Because the United States’ education system is highly localized, there is a wide variance in educational opportunities across localities.[5] When looking at international benchmarks such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), the U.S. is an average performer. However, when disaggregated by socioeconomic status, performance outcomes are in line with other countries of similar backgrounds. If we just look at U.S. schools with a poverty rate of less than 10 percent, the U.S. would rank number one on PISA. Because school funding is connected to local taxes, this shows just how important school funding is to student success.


[1] Coleman, James (1966). Equality of educational Opportunity, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED012275.pdf

[2] Jackson, C. K., R. Johnson, and C. Persico. 2015. The effects of school spending on educational and economic outcomes: Evidence from school finance reforms. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(1): 157–218, https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/policy-briefs/school-spending-policy-research-brief-Jackson.pdf.

[3] Jackson, C. K., Johnson, R.C., & Persico, C. (2015). Boosting educational attainment and adult earnings. Education Next, 15(4), https://www.educationnext.org/boosting-education-attainment-adult-earnings-school-spending/

[4] Leachman, M., & Mai, C. (2014). Most states still funding schools less than before the recession. Center on Budget and policy Priorities, http://media.mlive.com/lansing-news/other/2014%20K-12%20EMBARGOED%20copy.pdf

[5] American Federation of Teachers (2013). Equity in Education, https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/pisa_equity2013.pdf

August upcoming events

Dear DCF Activists, Building Reps and All Around Rockstars,

Welcome back to school! We hope you had an amazing summer. It’s been great to hear from many of you about what you’ve been up to and what your hopes are for the upcoming year. We have a ton going on already and wanted to get you some important right away.

As we head back to school, we encourage you to connect with your colleagues, especially new educators and staff as we hope to welcome everyone into the DCF family as quickly as possible.

We are hosting our back-to-school happy hour on August 17th 2018 and everyone is welcome, member or not, so get out there and ask folks to join us!

As we are sure you have heard, increasing school funding is going to be a huge focus this fall, along with launching AFT sponsored professional development, a national teacher leader program, student debt clinics and more.

The truth is – the only hope to bring increased funding into our schools begins and ends with you. We know, without a doubt that all of the door knocking, phone banking, car painting, postcards, 10-minute meetings and more moved our community to vote last fall and in 2015 to support our students, our schools and our profession.

In the same spirit, our community needs to hear from the people who know first hand what the lack of funding does to our schools and our students. No one knows better than you.

That being said – here are some important upcoming dates. Please make sure you are receiving our email and text updates, find us on facebook and twitter, schedule a back-to-school 10-minute meeting at your school and get in touch with us anytime.

We are here to support the difficult work ahead, and we know that together we can move mountains.

Click here to RSVP for these events – http://bit.ly/DCFaugevents

Tuesday, Aug. 7th – Bright futures for Douglas County kids is looking for DCSD employees to make public comment at the BOE meeting to support our funding needs.

6:00 pm at the Wilcox building.

Friday, Aug. 17th – DCF back-to-school happy hour! 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm at Lodo’s in Highlands Ranch. Everyone is welcome, but please RSVP; we need a headcount for food. 

Tuesday, Aug. 21st Bright Futures for Douglas County kids is asking for educators, parents, community members and more to show up in person to ask that the BOE run a bond/mlo this fall and commit to doing the work to increase funding for DCSD. They need your support.

6pm at the Wilcox building (arrive early if you want to be inside).

Thursday, September 6th – General Membership Meeting – All DCF members are welcome. Our membership meetings are held at 304 Inverness way south, in the lower level, Centennial, Co 80112.

We have ample free parking, provide dinner and kids are always welcome.

Food arrives at 4:30 pm and the meeting begins at 5pm.

Non-members are welcome to join us, but are not eligible to vote should a vote be called.

Click here to RSVP for these events – http://bit.ly/DCFaugevents

It’s going to be a great year! We are thrilled to be here working with you, and as always let us know what you need to succeed as a member of DCF.

In solidarity,
Your DCF team