Nearly 400 Adams 12 Five Star Schools teachers and supporters picketed outside the school district's Thornton headquarters on Sept. 5 to protest a districtwide pay cut made in June.
“There was no anger or hostility among those people who came tonight,” said Missy Salter, a District 12 Educators' Association executive board member and Shadow Ridge Middle School sixth-grade mathematics teacher. “We're just a group of teachers coming together to say, 'We know what's best for kids, and we're here to demonstrate that we're together and behind that goal for the district.'”
The 1.5 percent pay cut, which began Sept. 1, was approved by Adams 12 school board members June 20 to address a projected $12 million budget shortfall during the 2012-2013 school year.
At the time, Shelley Becker, the school district's chief financial officer, attributed the shortfall to decreased per-pupil contributions from the state and a reduction in revenue.
The school board froze pay increases for years of experience and approved the pay cut, which is slated increase to 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2013. The actions were taken to allow the district to continue funding contributions to the state's Public Employees' Retirement Association.
Malley Drive Elementary School third-grade teacher Trisha Quint learned about the pay cut on Aug. 23. On that day, Adams 12 administrators sent emails to district teachers, notifying them of the cut that would begin the following week.
She said the delayed announcement, dovetailed with the first week of school for students, “felt like a slap in the face.”
“I felt very devalued as an educator,” Quint said. “I just felt that my school district doesn't value the work that I'm doing anymore.”
Quint estimates she donated about $12,000 worth of time spent outside the classroom over the last year to the district. What's more, she said, tough economic and social conditions have added stressors for teachers, who at times, want to help students who come to school without food or clothing.
“Teachers give so much time, day in and day out, because of the kids, and the cuts impact everything we get,” Quint said. “The cuts tell teachers, 'We don't value the hard work that they're putting in and the extra hours that they're committing to students.'”
Westminster resident Joseph Hein agreed with the cut and said he, as a parent, has also felt the brunt of school district cuts over the years.
“For the first time in while, this is the first board I've seen really focused on kids and parents,” he said. “When they're talking up here, they're talking about kids and parents, and what their concerns are. I'm a parent, and I hope this board has my back. I believe that they do.”