Parents show support for JCPS teachers amid salary, conduct controversy

JCPS week of teacher walk-ins start
A JCTA sign is posted in a window at Semple Elemetary School on Monday. (Source: Doug Druschke/WAVE 3 News)
A JCTA sign is posted in a window at Semple Elemetary School on Monday. (Source: Doug Druschke/WAVE 3 News)
Parents at Farmer Elementary School show support for JCPS teachers by wearing red. (Source: Sharon Yoo/WAVE 3 News)
Parents at Farmer Elementary School show support for JCPS teachers by wearing red. (Source: Sharon Yoo/WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Parents of students in the Jefferson County Public Schools showed their support for teachers on Monday morning. Some showed up at schools wearing red and escorting their children into the buildings.

The Jefferson County Teachers Association asked students and parents to wear red and participate in "walk-ins" to protest a recommended hiring freeze and code of conduct change by JCPS.

The week of walk-ins began at Crosby Middle School at 7 a.m. That's where Tonya Artman spends her day with the students in her 6th grade science class. Artman eases the curiosity of young ones by answering all sorts of questions they have.

"About why Pluto isn't a planet," said Artman, who told us her students have a lot of questions. "We basically face the gamut when it comes to science questions on a daily basis."

Artman's inspiration to become a science teacher came from her very own childhood memories. Specifically, memories of her own 8th grade science teacher.

"She was a fantastic science teacher," said Artman. "I was entertained in her class on a daily basis and I thought, 'I want to do this, this is cool, these kids are having fun.'"

Sharing laughs and knowledge is what Artman loves to do, but with new JCPS proposals to change the code of conduct Artman says she's nervous about what will happen in her classroom.

"It's incredibly scary to think that as a teacher what we may have to deal with in trying to teach and deal with the safety concerns that may happen that are being proposed," Artman said.

Artman was referring to the changes that would specifically shorten suspension times and make suspension not even an option for sexual harassment and theft within the schools. Several parents jointed the teachers in the walk-in saying they feel the same.

"The ability to protect the kids in there and if kids are not behaving and acting like they should, they need not be welcomed back," said Tracy Watts, the parent of two Crosby Middle students.

On top of the changes in the code of conduct, the proposal eliminates any pay increases for those who make more than $14 an hour in the district.

"These teachers do a lot," said Watts. "I don't think they are paid enough as it is, and I've certainly had a good experience with Jefferson County Schools and they deserve what they get and much, much more."

Parents also showed up at Farmer Elementary school donning red. Their message is the same, just there to show support.

"I've been at Farmer since my oldest was in kindergarten and I've only had fantastic teachers," Misty Cruse said. "They have the hardest job among any of us, they are responsible for teaching our children how to read and write and do math and all the things that are going to make them successful in their lives."

As for Artman, she says she wants a resolution but one that will eventually fade into memory.

"That we'll start the new school year next year and that these issues will be a memory, and that we will be able to teach to our optimal level for our students to achieve at their greatest level possible."

In a statement, JCPS said the proposals are a work in progress and that nothing has been finalized.

Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS superintendent, issued the following statement:

"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."

JCPS will be asked to approve the proposals at the May 10 school board meeting. Parents and teachers said they will be there to show solidarity.

SOUND OFF: Do you believe salaries for JCPS teachers are too high? Do you support JCTA's movement to protest the recommended hiring freeze code of conduct change? Click here to leave your comments on the WAVE 3 News Facebook page.

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