ALAMOSE – For the first time in about 20 years, teachers employed by the Alamosa School District (ASD) will receive a substantial raise — not the 1% to 2% cost-of-living adjustment, but an 8% raise at all levels which actually brings wages closer together. in line with the cost of living in Alamosa.
Support and paraprofessional staff will also receive the same increase.
The agreement included a new insurance benefits package that requires no co-payments for those who are insured.
What’s more, in a major victory to encourage retired teachers to return to the classroom, there was also an agreement allowing teachers to return to work even if they are retired – without it affecting their retirement and allowing them to return to the same level of compensation they received when they left.
The increase will now bring ASD salaries more in line — and more competitive — with other major districts outside of the San Luis Valley.
Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, a first-grade teacher with a bachelor’s degree will earn an annual salary of $40,358, not including insurance paid for the employee as well as vacation and sick days. This represents an increase from a base salary of $37,274 for this fiscal year.
The deal was reached in late May following negotiations between six people representing the ASD administration – the superintendent, assistant superintendent, two managers, two board members and the business manager, who advised but did not did not negotiate.
Seven union members of the Alamosa Education Association (AEA) negotiated on behalf of teachers, including the two AEA co-chairs and five teachers.
But there were many more people in the room (literally and virtually) than the thirteen negotiators present. AEA wanted the negotiation process to be public and transparent, and thanks to ASD making it available on Zoom, more than 90 teachers attended the sessions, online or in person.
“We had four negotiation sessions,” explains Luis Murillo, Deputy Superintendent of ASD. “The fourth session lasted ten hours.”
In a meeting with ASD Superintendent Dr. Jones, Assistant Superintendent Luis Murillo and AEA Co-Chairs Kathy West and Myra Manzanares to discuss the deal, it was clear around the table that this was not a zero-sum negotiation with winners and losers. There was a general consensus that the end result was an agreement that everyone seemed happy with.
“We have teachers who work two or three jobs just to be successful,” Manzanares said. “And we did our homework. We came to the negotiations with a lot of information in hand and we made a very good presentation to the administration, including where the resources were in the district budget for the increase.
But it would appear that the increase was about more than just numbers on a ledger or money in a bank account, significant as that is clearly.
As Manzanares said, “With this deal, we feel valued and heard.”
After several decades without significant salary increases, capped by several very difficult and, at times, conflicting years, this was an important statement.
“This agreement is directly aligned with our strategic plan,” Murillo said, “and meets one of our strategic goals to improve recruitment and retention.”
From the administrators’ perspective, the negotiated agreement was a crucial part of a larger process that involved five listening sessions with teachers, parents, students and community members. The listening sessions were facilitated in conjunction with the Colorado Education Initiative, a nonprofit group that specializes in “accelerating the improvement of educational innovation in Colorado school districts.”
“We want school to be a happy place, a place where people enjoy working and learning,” Murillo said. The ASD/IEC listening sessions and discussions have led to concrete steps to start making this a reality.
“Teachers said they wanted more access to mental health services, so we implemented it,” Murillo said. “They also said they were happiest learning new things, new approaches, other than the PDFs that we sometimes have to hand out for training, as required by state law.”
This ‘something else’ has evolved into a professional development program that includes a long list of seminars, workshops and sometimes learning sessions with fellow teachers who are particularly skilled in areas where they can train other teachers.
“It’s all part of a bigger picture,” Murillo said. But a big part of that big picture starts with the difference that will be made in teachers’ lives with the implementation of a raise.
It is anything but a finished process and more like a first step. The deal has been in place for a year, when it will likely be renegotiated.
New decisions are also under discussion, including a transition to a four-day school week, advocated by more than 80% of parents and teachers.
But that decision will only come after significant work and thought, starting with the creation of a committee of individuals who will examine the proposal from all angles. “We don’t want to rush it,” Dr. Jones said. “We don’t want to be rushed and then look back and see where we made mistakes like other districts have. We want to consider all the implications and make sure we include them in our transition.
But it’s clearly a solid idea on the horizon because, just weeks after letting people know they were accepting applications to be on the committee, more than seventeen people showed interest.
“It’s only part of the future, Murillo said. “And it’s only just begun.