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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Days after the Jefferson County Public School district shook hands on a tentative contract with its teachers, the agreement was approved by union voters and the schools board on Tuesday.
Eighty-four percent of the Jefferson County Teachers Association approved the new deal Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday night, the JCPS board voted unanimously to put the contract in place. Negotiators on both sides of the deal wanted to get a contract approved before the possibility of a state takeover.
Some of the changes in the new agreement were stated as a response to this year's state management audit.
The document specifies everything from compensation and benefits to who sets the school calendar.
There is a 0.5% raise for all JCPS teachers in the contract that is retroactive to July 1, 2018. There will be another 0.5% raise on July 1, 2019. (See page 69.)
Also included in the contract is a limit on the number of children per classroom. General class sizes for all levels cannot go above 31, except for physical education, choral and instrumental music classes. Class sizes for elementary schools are kept smaller than high schools. (Read the full breakdown on page 34.)
Some who have criticized JCPS in the past said last week that things like class-size reduction are a move in the right direction, but there's still a lot of work to do.
"You can reduce this class size," attorney Teddy Gordon said. "Everybody knows, the lower class size you have, the stronger teacher you have, the better results you have, that's a given."
Part of the contract addresses priority schools, also called enhanced support schools. These schools are identified as low performing and referred to as Level 2 and 3 schools in the contract. (Page 86)
The document states teachers who choose to work at priority schools will get extra benefits "to better address staffing needs and promote student success."
Teachers at those schools receive a stipend of $400, four times a year. Teachers get an additional $100 for every five years they spend at the Level 2 or 3 schools.
There is an additional stipend available to teachers with eight plus years of experience who choose to transfer to a Level 2 or Level 3 school and remain there for two years.
"In the past, they said there just wasn't money to do it," JCTA President Brent McKim said. "So, I think it's a matter of the district making it a priority with us to fund these initiatives to get people to really consider our struggling schools."
Also, Level 2 and 3 schools will have five more days of professional development for teachers than other schools in the district.
Former Mill Creek Elementary School principal Faye Owens said the idea to provide incentives is a good one, but the focus should be on finding teachers driven to work at under-performing schools who are motivated by the unique challenges those schools bring.
"It's like a calling," Owens said. "Money can't buy that. I hope that all those teachers who have been working in those schools and are effective will get the benefit of being there."
The contract comes weeks before a scheduled hearing on state management of the district.
"I think teachers are relieved to have a contract, even if there were no state takeover, they're relieved to have it before school starts and to know what the new contract is going to be for the new school year," McKim said.