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Custodians, bus drivers, food service workers and other support staff — people who do the often overlooked work that helps keep the district running — have won a hard-fought contract victory in their latest union negotiations with Jefferson County Public Schools.
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The Jeffco Board of Education ratified a new labor agreement with the Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association July 26. The newly-ratified agreement boosts starting pay for union members by 44%.
The new contract calls for an $18/hour starting wage by September 2023, increased job security, reduced turnover, more sick leave rights, healthier food for students and increased parent engagement about school nutrition.
Library paraprofessional and JESPA President Lara Center called the agreement a historic moment for Jeffco Public Schools support staff.
“This is the second year that we’ve fought for and achieved well-deserved and substantial pay increases for our members,” Center said. “We’d like to acknowledge the members of the Board of Education for keeping their promise to work with us.”
Last October, Coloradans for the Common Good, which JESPA is a member of, held a school board candidate forum asking all six candidates to commit to increasing wages by $3/hour over the next two years in an effort to retain workers who could otherwise make more money outside of the district. The candidates also were asked to commit to mandating parental consent for student purchases of junk food and ending the district practice of tying junk food sales to food service workers’ pay.
“We are so grateful for our friends at the Coloradans for the Common Good and for our community, parents, students and teachers,” Center said. “Without them, this victory would not have been possible.”
Jeffco Board of Education President Stephanie Schooley said the board prioritized funding this year to raise hourly wages for the district’s lowest paid employees.
"Along with agreement about language changes in the contract, this increase in hourly wages demonstrates the board's commitment to ESPs who play significant roles in our students' lives," Schooley said. "Our education support professionals are critical to student safety, transportation, student well-being, nutrition and student success."
Doreen Edstrom, school secretary and JESPA bargaining chair said JESPA members fought hard for increased wages through their collective action.
“We simply could not have achieved as much as we have without our community standing with us,” Edstrom said.
Memory Wollenweber, a retired Jeffco teacher and delegate to Coloradans for the Common Good from Trinity Presbyterian Church said, “It was a privilege to stand with our invaluable JESPA personnel. I thank the Jefferson County Board of Education for prioritizing our workers and our children and for honoring their commitment.”
JESPA represents 3,800 paraeducators, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, food service workers and more across the district.
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