Clear Creek teachers and support staff have asked the school board for salary increases in the 2022-23 school year, saying they would like to earn salaries that show that district officials appreciate them and would allow them an opportunity to live where they work.
Teachers asked for a 15% salary increase for the 2022-23 school year, while the support staff asked to increase their hourly wage to $20.
Several teachers, including representatives of the Clear Creek County Education Association, and education support professionals spoke at the March 15 meeting, explaining that while they loved their jobs, they needed to be paid not just a living wage, but what one educator called a professional wage.
Hollie Harlan, the school district’s chief financial officer, estimates that it would cost the district about $1.2 million each year to provide the requested raises to all staff.
Teachers said while Clear Creek teachers make more than Platte Canyon School District teachers, the cost of living in Clear Creek and Jefferson counties is much higher than in Park County.
This year in Clear Creek, a starting teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no teaching experience earns $38,709, while the starting salary in Jeffco Public Schools is $43,274 and in Platte Canyon is $37,030.
A 15% increase would bring the starting salary for Clear Creek teachers to $44,515 in the 2022-23 school year.
The Clear Creek County Education Association will be negotiating for salaries, step increases and benefits in the coming months. The association submitted a petition signed by about 95% of the teaching staff asking for the 15% raises.
Officials say educator salaries don’t indicate their value to the district.
District staff missed out on raises on and off over the last decade when the district didn’t have money in its budget to afford raises. However, the district made salary increases a priority since 2016-17, when a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience had a starting salary of $32,000.
Polly Fisher, president of CCCEA, reminded the board that the district has lost teachers because of the low pay, and teachers have worked to help the district pass the last two bond requests from voters to improve school buildings. Teachers also have helped find ways to increase enrollment, which is the basis for much of the district’s state funding.
“We hope you will take the necessary and appropriate action to increase salaries,” Fisher told the board. “Please invest in educators.”
Teachers got a 3.5% salary increase for 2021-22, when consumer prices were up 6.8% in 2021. Teacher Tina Matthew said educators would be forced to leave for other districts if changes aren’t made, she noted.
According to the salary schedule on the school district website, classified staff members in their first year with the district are paid anywhere from about $15 to $19 per hour depending on the job.
As teachers have gotten raises, other staff throughout the district have gotten corresponding percentage increases.
Pippi Graham, a special education support educator, presented a petition signed by 39 support staff, asking for the raise to $20 per hour. She told the board that she knows people who have taken jobs elsewhere rather than with the school district because of the pay.
“We work hard to make sure all of our students get what they deserve,” Graham said. “Many of us have one or more additional jobs just to survive.”
Some of the support staff have children who qualify for free or reduced lunch prices in school, and some are using local food banks to make ends meet.
“We feel it is necessary (to get higher salaries) to attract and retain support professionals that our students, staff and community deserve,” special education paraprofessional Melanie Leatherwood said, noting that they could work elsewhere for higher pay. “Why are we here instead, the answer is simple. We are here because we care. We made a choice to be here, to guide and to serve the next generations to the best of our abilities.”