Welcome back!

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year DCSD, and welcome to your union!

April membership mtg

We are looking forward to another exciting year, with school funding being a primary focus of the fall along with professional development and advocacy for public education, both locally and nationally.

Over the last few months we have seen educators and school district employees rising in record numbers in with a national cry of #RedForEd. Educators have taken their voice to the streets, the national media, and state capitols across the country asking that our elected officials invest in public education, invest in educators, and invest in our students.

On April 26th, 2018, Douglas County educators came together at the Colorado State Capitol, and we will continue to advocate together as #RedForEd continues. There are so many ways to get involved in this movement, be it talking to your neighbors, phone banking community members, or activating your colleagues to join us. There is a place for everyone in our DCF family.

Let us know what you would love to do –  we are always making space for new leaders and activists in our union.

As you get settled into the new year, do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions.

We know that getting the year off on the right foot sets the tone for your whole year, and we are here to support you.

Teachers everywhere are ready to take back our profession, and together we are doing that. Please encourage your colleagues to join us and become a member of the Douglas County Federation. Together we can accomplish things we could never accomplish alone. 


Superintendent Sole Finalist


It’s been a long time coming, but our board has announced the sole finalist for superintendent. Please help welcome Dr. Thomas Tucker into our school district and our community!

Dr. Tucker is the superintendent of the Princeton City School District in Ohio and has been named national superintendent of the year. Twice. He’s been a teacher, principal, and director of curriculum. He’s passed a bond and levy and understands how important properly funding public education is to the lives of our kids. Perhaps most importantly, he describes himself as a teacher first.

As Douglas County educators, we’ve been through a lot over the past nine years. We fought a politically motivated school board that selfishly severed the 50-year collaborative relationship with its educators and their union—one that fostered a once small rural school system into a large nationally recognized destination district. All to the detriment of our students’ education and learning environment. Despite the reformers best efforts, the DCF never stopped representing our members and working for what is best for students.

We fought an illegal push to take public school tax dollars and give them away to private institutions. We saw the squandering of district resources and incompetent management of our district’s budget. We suffered through the replacement of effective union-built, evidence-based, employee-led professional development with training centered around a flawed evaluation system. We railed as the district valued children differently by telling parents that they were going to pay the elementary art teacher more than the 4th grade teacher, but not as much as the 1st grade teacher.

But the Douglas County Federation organized. Beginning in 2009, we educated each other and our colleagues, then we reached out to the community to warn them of what was looming. We made calls, held meetings, and knocked on doors. We talked to our neighbors and friends and made sure they knew not only who to vote for, but what was at stake for our kids and community. Even though we worked hard, we lost three consecutive elections, but finally, in 2015 we won every seat in the school board election and then we swept the 2017 board races. Douglas County Federation members never quit organizing! Now, with the new school board comes a new direction, a new superintendent, and a new challenge—to all of us.

What we know is that it is easy to tear something down, but takes immense work to build up something of value. So, now we get to work. Superintendent Tucker and our volunteer school board can’t do it alone. In fact, the rebuilding of our students’ education system is wholly dependent on our ability to once again work collaboratively with district leadership.

Each of us has the responsibility—even after the struggle we’ve experienced—to work harder than ever to improve the lives of our students and our profession. That begins in our schools and in our classrooms. It means volunteering to work on committees to improve what’s been short changed for so many years. It means speaking up at board meetings and with building administration to voice your concerns about what we know needs improving. It means being more engaged and moving past the fear we’ve felt for far too long.

Please join me in welcoming Superintendent Tucker to our great district. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I’m sure that he will appreciate knowing that he has DCF members eager to stand beside him. We’ve weathered the storm–thank you to all of you who have stayed and fought for our students; and thank you to those who have joined us. Now we MUST use the new rays of the rising sun to grow something bountiful.

This work starts by showing up to our general membership meeting on Thursday, and by actively working towards increased school funding–there is something you can do now! We’ll see you at the meeting.  

Career and Technical Education

Today’s students will face complex challenges when they enter the workforce. Knowing how to solve problems, work collaboratively, think critically and innovatively, and communicate effectively are essential skills.  Career and technical education (CTE – formerly known as vocational education) is proving to be one of the most effective educational approaches to ensuring that students learn these 21st century skills alongside technical skills and academics.

The economic benefits of these programs—both for individuals and society—are compelling. Students in CTE programs graduate in much higher numbers than other high school students.[i] CTE offers a lower-cost option for students to acquire the skills they will need to fill the well-paying jobs that exist in high-demand sectors of our economy. And recent studies in Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin point to a high rate of return of CTE programs to state economies in the form of annual tax revenues.

CTE programs can also help meet community needs. At Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, the city, its police and fire departments, families, school staff, and the teachers union came together to launch a public safety CTE program last year.[ii] The program, with seed money from the AFT Innovation Fund, prepares students for careers in firefighting, emergency medical services and law enforcement. Students will progress toward good, civic-minded jobs, and the program will help diversify these workforces to better reflect the communities they serve.

High-quality programs focus on the needs of high-growth industries at both the national and local level, such as healthcare and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.[iii] Healthcare occupations are expected to make up 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The STEM CTE cluster prepares students for careers in engineering and computer science – critical areas for the economic future of our country. Traditional vocational education programs have been transformed into 21st century CTE programs. For example, agriculture has diversified its offerings over time so that students can now study aquaculture and plant pathology, while those interested in the business side can pursue sales and management.

One of the reasons CTE is so successful is that it employs project-based learning (PBL) as a method of instruction.[iv]  This approach is more likely than traditional means of instruction to engage students because it gives a real-world context for learning, based on students’ own interests.  Core content is presented through rigorous, relevant, hands-on learning. Projects tend to give students more choice when it comes to demonstrating what they know but they require that students work in teams to research problems, construct their own solutions and defend their choices. All these activities engage higher-order thinking skills.



[ii] AFT Innovation Fund, Collaborating to Expand CTE Offerings, https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/if_pft-cte_2017.pdf

[iii] https://careertech.org/sites/default/files/CTEYourSTEMStrategy-FINAL.pdf ; http://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/What_is_CTE/Fact_Sheets/CTE_Works_Research-January2018.pdf

[iv] See e.g. https://cte.careertech.org/sites/default/files/CCSSOTaskForceCareerReadiness120114.pdf

Career Ladders

For several decades, school districts have made efforts to differentiate the work of teachers.[i] In the 1980s, almost all states had expressed interest in, proposed, or launched some form of career ladder system, but many were challenged in obtaining funding. Professional Learning Communities became popular in the 1990s and helped to enhance the careers of teachers. The heightened accountability reforms in the 2000s created new demands for teaching capacity increased the need to differentiate teachers. As the education landscape and the face of teaching change, it is increasingly important to identify ways for teachers to develop in their careers and expand leadership opportunities.

Career ladders provide support and incentives for teachers to develop skills and take on new roles and responsibilities.[ii] Rather than focusing simply on improving test scores, career ladders allow teacher to assume meaningful leadership roles in the district and in the profession. Teachers can be incentivized by opportunities to contribute to their school and students in new ways, based on the needs of the district. Johnson, Kraft, & Papay suggest that teachers are less motivated by pay than they are by working conditions such as school culture, strong leadership, and collegiality with other teachers.[iii]

High performing countries have comprehensive human resources systems that help create a strong teaching force through selecting, training, compensating, and developing teachers.[iv] Career development is just one aspect of this system. In Singapore, teachers are assessed annually during their first three years of practice and then placed in a career path that is best suited to their skills and interests. The three pathways in Singapore are master teachers, curriculum or research specialist, and school leader. Each pathway has its own salary scale and provides teachers with targeted training and development.

In recent years, several school districts have worked with their unions to develop strong teacher career ladder systems. Following are three examples.

  •      Austin, TX[v]: The Austin Independent School District, Education Austin, and the AFT worked together to develop a comprehensive professional pathways system that includes multiple measures. The compensation system includes years of service, leadership, and individualized professional development that is tied back to the appraisal to meet individual needs as indicated via assessments.
  •      Baltimore, MD[vi]: Baltimore Public Schools included in its 2007 teacher contract a “self-paced learning” plan where teachers earn achievement units through professional development and annual evaluations. The system is comprised of four career pathways that focus on mastery of instruction: Standard, Professional, Model and Lead. Peer reviews help to guide movement from one pathway to another.
  •      New Haven, CT[vii]: New Haven teachers agreed to a contract in 2009 that connected compensation to its teacher evaluation system. Raises can be earned through completed professional development, and teachers with higher evaluation scores will be offered leadership positions. Teachers also receive additional compensation for working in hard-to-serve schools.


[i] Natale, C., Gaddis, L., Bassett, K., & McKnight, K. (2013). Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: A 21st Century Imperative, a joint publication of Pearson & National Network of State Teachers of the Year, https://www.pearson.com/content/dam/one-dot-com/one-dot-com/global/Files/efficacy-and-research/schools/001__CSTCP-21CI-pk-final-WEB.pdf

[ii] American Federation of Teachers, Career Ladders, http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/rtp_careerladders.pdf

[iii] Susan Moore Johnson, Matthew A. Kraft & John P. Papay, How Context Matters in High-Need Schools: The Effects of Teachers’ Working Conditions on Their Professional Satisfaction and Their Students’ Achievement, Teachers College Record, 2012.

[iv] OECD (2011). Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States, https://www.oecd.org/pisa/48758240.pdf

[v] https://www.austinisd.org/ppft

[vi] http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/Page/14091

[vii] http://www.nhps.net/node/2328


Educational Excellence

Policymakers across the world have tried different approaches to achieve educational excellence. In New Zealand, for example, the structure of the education system was changed in the 1990s, using a decentralized power structure with each school having its own board, much like a charter school. They focused on reducing centralized decision making and giving schools autonomy in governance. Five years into this restructuring, one-third of the schools were failing. One policymaker admitted that he was naive to think that restructuring a system could improve the quality of the education.

There are no magic formulas, or groundbreaking ideas, only sustained commitment to a set of values and practices can lead to lasting success. A review of research by Shannon and Bylsma lists nine common characteristics that were found in high-performing schools, and most systems included at least five traits.[i] The nine traits Shannon and Bylsma list are (directly quoted):

  1.     A clear and shared focus
  2.     High standards and expectations for all students
  3.     Effective school leadership
  4.     High levels of collaboration and communication
  5.     Curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned with state standards
  6.     Frequent monitoring of learning and teaching
  7.     Focused professional development
  8.     A supportive learning environment
  9.     High levels of family and community involvement

McKinsey studied twenty-five of the world’s school systems, including ten of the top-performers, and found that high quality systems, no matter how different in structure, politics, or culture, were successful because of a strong focus on quality instruction. The three qualities that lead to system success were[ii], high quality educators, effective professional development, and, “ensuring the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”

These characteristics are oversimplified when connecting them to U.S. schools. Teacher recruitment looks much different in systems due to differences in history, culture, and status of teaching. Teaching is a highly desirable profession in countries like Finland and Singapore because of leadership, collaborative structures, and supportive environments. McKinsey states the obvious, but often overlooked, “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”[iii] In America, the lack of status in the teaching profession is a particular challenge that individual districts cannot control nationwide; however, districts can put into place an internal system that mitigates the challenge.

A study in Kentucky compared characteristics of high-performing and low-performing schools in the state.[iv] The authors found common traits among the high-performing schools that differed greatly from the lower-performing, high-poverty schools, including: “a schoolwide ethic of high expectations, caring, respectful relations between stakeholders; a strong academic and instructional focus; regular assessment of individual students; collaborative decision-making structures and a non-authoritarian principal; strong faculty morale and work ethic; and coordinated staffing strategies.”

Quality teaching force, effective and sustained professional development, and targeted support so that all children can achieve high standards requires improvements be made to other parts of the system, including funding and governance. It is improbable that any reform efforts that fail to address these traits will succeed in improving the quality of education in the system.


[i] Shannon, G.S. & Bylsma, P. (2007). The Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools: A research-based resource for schools and districts to assist with improving student learning. (2nd Ed.). Olympia, WA: OSPI.

[ii] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/how-the-worlds-best-performing-school-systems-come-out-on-top

[iii] ibid

[iv] http://www.ascd.org/publications/researchbrief/v3n06/toc.aspx


Personalized Learning

On a broad level, personalized learning is instruction focused on the what, how, when, and where students learn, and tailored to the student’s individual needs, skills, and interests.¹ Personalized learning instruction can be taught on an individual or small group level. The concept is to meet students where they are, motivate learning based on student interest, and prepare students to be lifelong learners. Teachers are empowered to better tailor instruction to specific student needs. As with any instructional methodology, strong implementation is the key.

In, “Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects,” one of the researchers’ key findings was that schools where personalized learning was implemented did not look as radically different from traditional schools as theory might predict.²

A key concern with personalized learning, though, is that proponents will misuse it to replace teachers or to change the role of teachers from educators to facilitators. Additionally, there is concern regarding feasibility in classrooms with a large number of students. However, research has shown that “student achievement is tied to a teacher’s capacity to carry the content to them personally through active instruction” (Brophy, 2006). Results such as this show that personalized learning tools are best used as supplements to teacher instruction.³ Anecdotes from teachers themselves reveal the value of using personalized learning systems in conjunction with holistic teaching practices.

There are also concerns with the influence of corporate and private interests on personalized learning through the technology industry. For example, the 2015 Education Plan of British Columbia utilized personalized learning as a key element. This included indirect input from OECD, Learning Frontiers, Cisco Systems Inc., Pearson Education, Promethean Ltd. The Ellen Koshland Family Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Global Education Leaders’ Partnership and BC Ministry of Education. The British Columbia Teachers Federation is concerned that the plan increases reliance on corporate educational technology and publishing companies. In contrast, some scholars maintain that personalized learning addresses socio-economic and educational realities of the 21st century. 4


¹ Childress, S. & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized Learning for  Every Student Every Day. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 95, No. 8, 33-38.

² Pane, J.F., Steiner, E., Baird, M., Hamilton, L., Pane, J.D. (2017). Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2042.html

³ Bulger, M. (2016). Personalized Learning: The Conversations We’re Not Having. https://datasociety.net/pubs/ecl/PersonalizedLearning_primer_2016.pdf

4 Childress, S. & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized Learning for  Every Student Every Day. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 95, No. 8, 33-38.





Shared Accountability and Teacher Retention

Over the past several decades, educational accountability in the United States has been based on a test-and-punish approach where teachers and schools are valued, in large part, on student standardized assessment performance. The OECD refers to this practice as “vertical accountability,” where student performance each group is only accountable to those above them, and teachers, schools, and districts are rewarded or punished based on test scores. The OECD, however, suggests that to attract and retain high performers into teaching, the U.S. needs to shift to a system of more horizontal (or professional) accountability, where teachers are held accountable to their fellow teachers and principals as well as to parents. This type of system allows teachers to feel more ownership of their jobs and to be treated as professionals, which is critical to their (and their students’) success. Top-performing countries such as Japan and Finland place a great emphasis on this professional accountability, and teachers have time to collaborate, observe each other, and work together to improve their practice.¹

In its review of schools across the world, the OECD also suggests that schools and districts are increasingly more effective when leadership is distributed among various individuals or groups rather than when it comes from the top down. School leadership teams can play a vital role in school development, and having a more dispersed or shared leadership system can help to improve overall instructional practice. Research supports the idea that distributed leadership can improve school outcomes. This will look different based on the circumstances of each school or district, but can mean reexamining roles for teachers, leadership teams, principals, and school boards and cover responsibilities such as human resources, curriculum, and student policies.²

Top-down accountability comes from a business approach to running schools, with quick results that give schools data of how students are performing. Hargreaves and Fullan suggest that focusing more on professional capital will provide a greater influence on school improvement and student outcomes. Professional capital assumes that teaching is difficult and requires technical knowledge, practice, and continuous improvement. A focus on social capital can look different in different places, but all show a shift in accountability. For instance, in Finland, curriculum is developed locally to allow the teachers and leaders in schools to determine the needs for their students. In Singapore and Japan, teachers have the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with each other on an ongoing basis.³


Direct Instruction and Constructivism

The OECD describes direct instruction as where “a teacher’s role is to communicate knowledge in a clear and structured way, to explain correct solutions, to give students clear and resolvable problems, and to ensure calm and concentration in the classroom.”¹ Constructivism, on the other hand, “focuses on students not as passive recipients but as active participants in the process of acquiring knowledge,” and gives “students the chance to develop solutions to problems on their own, and allow[s] students to play active role in instructional activities.”² There is debate on which strategy is best for student learning and teachers vary in their approaches. 

Wiggins and McTighe state that content and thinking are inseparable, that a person cannot think about nothing and conceptual understand requires cognitive skills.³ This statement acknowledges that direct instruction and constructivism must go hand in hand, that there is actually a continuum of learning rather than simply an either/or for how to teach and learn. The OECD found that direct instruction has a positive impact on student achievement, but that the teacher must provide learning opportunities that are recognized and utilized by the student in order to be effective.

Noddings advocates interdisciplinary lessons that engage students to examine how the material in their curricula relates to their own lives. 4 He believes that standardized tests are not bad because of the facts that are taught and tested, but because there needs to be more of a critical thinking piece for students to connect with the material. This combination of direct instruction and constructivism is vital to student success.

Neuman maintains that background knowledge is crucial to a child’s academic success.5 Her focus on early childhood finds that many students, especially from low-income families, come to school with a knowledge deficiency that later impacts their comprehension and skill development. For these students, thinking critically and developing solutions are a challenge because they are “information have-nots.” Teachers must help students develop understanding of knowledge and concepts as a foundation for later learning. “We must develop pedagogy that is both sensitive to children’s development and representative of conceptual knowledge that has sufficient coherence and depth.” Direct instruction is a necessary base for constructivist teaching, and the two methods are inseparable for true knowledge building.

1.  https://www.oecd.org/berlin/43541655.pdf

2.  https://www.oecd.org/berlin/43541655.pdf

3. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design .Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

4.  Noddings, N. Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

5. Neuman, S. (2006). “How We Neglect Knowledge and Why.” American Educator, http://www.readingrockets.org/article/how-we-neglect-knowledge-and-why


Special Education and Inclusion

In the 1980s and 1990s, inclusion became the the most important issue in special education. 1 Experts agree that students with disabilities should not be taught in special, separate classrooms and schools.

Research has consistently shown that the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classrooms has favorable outcomes for those students. 2 In one study, it was shown that for nine elementary school students with severe disabilities, general education classrooms delivered more instruction, provided comparable 1:1 time with the instructor, addressed more content, and used non-disabled peers more and adults less. Another study showed that students with learning disabilities made more progress in math in general education settings than in traditional special education settings. 3 Students also had increases in spelling, social studies, and other academic areas.

Inclusion led to positive educational outcomes beyond academics. 4 A longitudinal study of 11,000 students with a range of disabilities found that more time spent in a general education classroom was correlated positively with fewer absences from school, fewer referrals for disruptive behavior, and better outcomes after high school in employment and independent living. Studies show that inclusion does not have a negative impact on the learning of typical peers, including instructional time and student engagement. 5 Those students without disabilities were shown in one study to make comparable or greater gains in reading and math when taught in inclusive settings vs. traditional classrooms. Typical peers benefit from involvement and relationships with students who have disabilities and are open to new learning opportunities.

Successful inclusion depends on the quality of the inclusion program, training of the teachers, and administrator leadership. 6 Educators need to assist students in developing the appropriate social and behavioral skills that will allow them to be integrated into the class. Teacher perceptions of inclusion are mixed, mainly varied based on implementation, administrative support, resources, and training. School districts should include all school and community groups in developing a mission statement to articulate the district’s vision around inclusion and a strategic plan for providing resources, time, and support for achieving the mission.

1. Crockett, J. B., & Kauffman, J. M. (1999). The least restrictive environment: Its origins and interpretations in special education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc;

2. Bui, X., Quirk, C., Almazan, S., & Valenti, M. (2010). Inclusive education research & practice. Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Retrieved from http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

3. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

4. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

5. http://www.mcie.org/usermedia/application/6/inclusion_works_final.pdf

6. Salend, S. J., & Garrick Duhaney, L. M. (1999). The impact of inclusion on students with and without disabilities and their educators. Journal for Special Educators, 20(2), 114-126.

Open response to Directors Geddes and Peck

The Douglas County Federation (DCF) is compelled to respond to the misinformation shared by Director Geddes at this week’s board meeting (and later affirmed by Director Peck). Dr. Geddes stated that the DCF is opposed to performance-based pay or basing a teacher’s salary on evaluation.

In fact, in 1994, long before it was en vogue to adopt such programs, the DCF helped develop an award winning pay for performance system in collaboration with district administration. That system was developed with participation of teachers, principals, school board members, parents, and community members, and included bonuses and negative consequences based on evaluations. Notably, some community members that served on the pay committee developed compensation systems in the private sector as part of their profession. Every aspect of a teacher’s career was reviewed and considered as the system was designed. The guiding principle at every meeting and for every decision was, “Is this best for our students?”

The system worked and Douglas County School District’s (DCSD’s) children and employees flourished for years. These are undeniable, provable, documented facts. Unfortunately, that pay system and the guiding principal of employee and community collaboration were summarily ended with the ideological shift of DCSD’s board several years ago.

However, one thing Director Geddes did say last night was true; the current teacher evaluation system, CITE, is not supported by teachers. It is convoluted, counter productive, misaligned, and often manipulated for political reasons. It has created a negative environment in our schools and is one of the main factors in our district’s outrageous teacher turnover rate.

But those are not the main reasons teachers don’t like it. Like the current top-down, dysfunctional, punitive, and educationally unsound pay system, the current teacher evaluation system is not good for kids. Teachers know what is best for their students and they know that these two systems make it harder for them to do their jobs, and ultimately to meet the needs of their students.

It is regrettable that Directors Geddes and Peck chose not to attend the DCF teacher panel discussion, where they would have learned the truth about what teachers, principals, and community members believe, and instead choose to invent a story that fits their political narrative, but is blatantly untrue.


Kallie Leyba
President, Douglas County Federation

Importance of School Sponsored Services and Activities

Importance of School Sponsored Services and Activities

The focus on standardized testing and school budget cuts over the past few decades has led to a watering down of curriculum and a decrease of wraparound supports. Services such as school busses, medical care, and food are all factors that contribute to students attending and being engaged while at school, so it is critical that children’s social needs are met as well as their academic needs.[1] Research also shows the importance of providing students with access to extra-curricular activities, such as sports, performing arts, publications, and clubs.[2]

In order to enjoy their right to a free education, many students rely on school busses to transport them to school. Gottfried found that students who ride the bus in kindergarten “are absent less often and have lower odds of being chronically absent, a key indicator of future academic success.”[3] Absenteeism is damaging to the student who misses school, with its short-and long-term effects on academic performance and future absenteeism. It is also damaging to the other students in the class, because “when classmates miss more school, all students in the classroom tend to have lower test scores.”

A Brookings study showed that the benefits of integrating wraparound supports far outweighed the benefits of those programs to the students.[4] Elementary school students in a large urban district received personalized supports such as food, medical care, and after school programs. Those students demonstrated better grades, effort, and attendance when compared with peers who did not participate in the program. Those students continued to succeed in future school years, with a reduction in the achievement gap and a dropout rate cut nearly in half. There was also a financial return on investment in the program.

Beyond having their basic needs met, students also benefit when schools provide them with extracurricular activities. These activities are important in order to give students a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom.[5] Research suggests that “participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out.” One study found participation in athletics to be a significant predictor of school dropout.[6] Another study showed participation in extracurricular activities to be positively associated with higher education attainment and future earnings.[7]

School supports have an underlying equity issue, because some students need additional funding and transportation to participate in many of these activities, with growing gaps between upper-middle class and working class families and their ability to pay for activities with both time and money.[8] Incorporating services and activities into the school budget helps ensure equal access and benefits for all students.


[2] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp

[3] http://www.aera.net/Newsroom/News-Releases-and-Statements/Bus-Taking-Linked-to-Lower-Kindergarten-Absenteeism


[5] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp

[6] http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=psych_honproj

[7] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna[8] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna


Employee Raises

Dear DCSD Board, Interim Superintendent, and Cabinet Members:

At the June 6, 2017 board meeting, cabinet and board members expressed agreement that teachers and staff need to be paid more, and we appreciate and agree with the sentiment. At the very least, increasing teacher and staff pay is necessary for DCSD to become competitive with surrounding districts, but additionally, this is necessary to demonstrate that the DCSD values its employees. As you stated at the meeting, the 2% average raise is woefully inadequate, and to quote Director Geddes, “How can you have pay for performance when you can’t pay for performance?” His statement is truer than than many might know. Using the current controversial evaluation coupled with the flawed pay for performance system, a teacher whose salary is $45,000 and who earned an Innovative rating (above Proficient) earns merely an additional $11.25 per month, before taxes. Teachers were promised real rewards for their additional work; all of our educators deserve better.

Surrounding districts have approved far greater pay raises than DCSD. For example, this year Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) is offering a 3.3% market adjustment in addition to step increases between 3-8%, for a total raise of 6.3-11.3% and an additional raise of 2-5% for knowledge level advancement (KLA). In other words, some teachers in CCSD who have worked towards a first or second Master’s degree are getting raises of 8.3-16.3%. Even if DCSD cuts administrative department budgets and is able to give teachers and staff a 6% increase this year, we will not close the gap with this neighboring district.

Some on the board believe that increasing pay is the only way to improve employee morale; we know for a fact that this is not the case. Educators recognize the constraints of working within a budget. In the past, when the district worked collaboratively with the Douglas County Federation, teachers voted for a pay freeze and had much higher staff morale, as measured by the district’s own employee survey. This is because both organizations worked together on the budget, teachers and staff knew that their voices were heard, and they knew that the district was being transparent. Unfortunately, with an increase of over $21 million in administrative department budgets over the past three school years and no one representing teachers and staff working collaboratively on the budget, employees do not trust that our finances are as dire as what is presented. The DCF executive board knows that the budget can be re-worked to decrease administrative spending and prioritize spending on those who work directly with our students.

Finally, one director’s suggestion at a recent meeting (along with complementary tweets) demonstrates a lack of basic understanding of public budgeting. The suggestion was that parents need to start paying more fees for services and activities such as “football, choir, food, childcare, and busses.” Parents pay fees for football and other extracurricular activities; the fees are used to cover the costs for the activity and cannot be used for salary increases. Choir is among many performing and practical arts electives that meet graduation requirements, without which the graduation rates in DCSD could potentially drop. The district subsidizes food only by absorbing the costs from voluntarily discontinuing the federal reimbursement program, acknowledging that nutrition services are a successful enterprise. An increase of bus fees would likely result in fewer families using busses, resulting in great traffic issues around our schools. None of these options is a practical solution for the funding of salary increases. Additionally, if our district wants to compete for students with surrounding districts, asking for increased payment from parents for these important services and activities is a bad decision.

There are two famous sayings that apply to this important issue. First is that the budget reflects the values of the organization. Second is to put your money where your mouth is. Providing frontline workers in our schools with only a 2% raise demonstrates how little the majority of the Board values teachers and makes many of their words ring hollow. It’s time for the entire Board to prioritize teaching and learning in our district and give teachers a fair, substantial, and well deserved raise–a raise significantly higher than 2%. This is not an issue of the ability as much as it is a willingness to pay–pure and simple.


Kallie Leyba