Charles Fowler is a biblically qualified Christian candidate for the United States Senate.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Denver Teachers Stage Demonstration

The Denver Post

Denver teachers stage demonstration
By Allison Sherry
Denver Post Staff Writer

Friday, May 21, 2004 -

More than 500 Denver Public School teachers crowded the 900 block of Grant Street on Thursday afternoon, shouting, honking and marching for more pay and greater freedom in the classroom.

They strolled the area carrying signs that read "I make less money than my students," "No pay no work" and "Ask me why I'm leaving DPS." The rally was sparked by contract negotiations between the teachers' union and the district, but many teachers said they came to protest the stringent environment in their classrooms.

Teachers said they need more liberty to individualize classes and curriculum to their students. The district has moved to make class formats more streamlined, in part to improve CSAP scores.

"The programs we're teaching are inappropriate for some of the students," said Judy Wilson, who teaches at Horace Mann Middle School. "Culturally, they're way off. ... The students need the basics in math and English."

Loretta Gonzales said she feels like the district is babysitting her. She teaches special education at West High School, and said there are specialists at the district level giving her advice. "What I'm doing works," said Gonzales, who has taught at West for three years. "I just want respect for what I do, and I want to be appreciated for what I do."

The district respects teachers, said Melanie Haas, southwest area superintendent, but in recent years administrators have decided to move to one math program in all schools, instead of 12, and one literacy program and one science program.

"With that flux comes tremendous anxiety," she said. "They're (teachers) undergoing tremendous professional development, and that change is difficult."

Others teachers, though, were marching for more pay. The district offer now on the table is for all DPS teachers to get a 2.6 percent pay increase next year, which includes a 1.1 percent cost-of-living increase. The problem with the offer, according to teachers and union organizers, is that health care costs keep going up, and most teachers won't see more take-home pay to compensate.

"We shouldn't have to worry about our students and our ... own kids," said Rich Rosivach, a social studies teacher.

Andre Pettigrew doesn't see it that way. The assistant superintendent said the 2.6 percent offer on the table is more than fair in a tough budget climate.

Most other employee groups, except principals, are getting a 1.49 percent increase, said Pettigrew.

During the march, DPS Superintendent Jerry Wartgow told members of the school board that the administration will cut at least 70 administrative positions in the wake of a $25 million budget shortfall for next fall.

Wartgow said he's trying to keep the budget cuts away from the classroom. "Teachers are grossly underpaid," said Wartgow. "I believe in the larger scheme of things that society will have to deal with this."

DPS plans to go to voters in 2005 for more tax money to go directly for teacher pay, Wartgow said.


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