JCPS and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract that will raise salaries by 1 percent over two years and will provide teachers in underperforming schools with additional training and pay.

The proposal has to be ratified by the 6,500 members of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which a union leader expects to happen by Monday, and then approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education, which next meets Tuesday.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said in an emailed statement that the agreement “will strengthen both school culture and student learning.”

JCTA President Brent McKim told Insider Wednesday evening that much of the additional roughly $5.5 million the district would spend under the new contract would go toward supporting teachers and students in underperforming schools.

The agreement calls for teachers in those schools to receive an annual stipend of $1,600 and, beginning in the 2019/20 school year, an additional five paid days of training. Teachers with eight years experience who transfer to an underperforming school also would receive a one-time stipend of $1,000.

Raises of 0.5 percent for all union members would take effect this fall. Teachers would get the same raise the following fall. Additional raises could be negotiated in two years.

Brent McKim

McKim said the agreement contains mechanisms to support schools where students struggle the most, in part as a response to a state management audit that identified significant management deficiencies. One of those mechanisms would give principals in underperforming schools additional opportunities to recruit experienced teachers.

Another gives the superintendent power to transfer teachers “who do not have the appropriate capacities to be successful” out of priority schools, the summary said.

Union critics have charged that mechanisms in the current contract “trap” inexperienced teachers in schools where students struggle the most — though administrators have said that the contract provides enough flexibility.

In April, Kentucky Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis recommended that the state take over JCPS because of ineffective management.

The local school board in May voted unanimously to fight the takeover. Hearings on the matter are scheduled for the fall.

The takeover fight also is casting doubt on the solidity of the agreement. An attorney had told Insider that state-appointed manager generally have broad powers, and some have unilaterally made changes to teacher contracts — or dismissed them altogether.

McKim said that he nonetheless expects any new agreement to be honored, as it is protected by state and federal constitutions.

In addition, he said, the tentative agreement addresses many of the deficiencies the state has identified.

“We think that the state should be pleased with what they see in the agreement,” McKim said.

Contract details will be shared with union members and electronic voting will take place over the next few days, with an expected closing time of noon Monday.

Pollio said, “As a school principal for a decade, I know that well-trained and highly supported teachers are essential to the success of a school and district. … Having also led a priority school, I know we need to find innovative ways to attract and retain teachers.

“The agreement supports priority schools using innovative strategies that provide essential professional development and enhanced incentives for teachers in our most challenging schools,” he said. “I appreciate the commitment and collaborative work of the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) throughout this process.”

This post has been updated with comments from Pollio.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.