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Denver Board, Union Await Governor's Contract Proposal

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The Denver school board and the city's teachers' union are awaiting a contract proposal from Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, who has concluded a month of hearings on the issues that divided the two sides during recent contract negotiations.

To prevent the Denver Classroom Teachers Association from striking, Mr. Romer early last month invoked a little-used 1915 state law that allows the Governor and the state labor department to intervene in labor disputes. (See Education Week, Jan. 16, 1991.)

Mr. Romer and Joe Donlon, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor, began the hearings Jan. 15. The Governor's4proposed contract is now expected to be presented by about the middle of next month.

Although Governor Romer gave some signals of his position during the proceedings, exactly what he will propose remains unclear, representatives of both sides said last week.

The hearings focused heavily on the concept of collaborative decisionmaking in schools--an idea that had been a major area of disagreement between the school board and the teachers' association.

District and union officials said last week that they expect the Governor's proposed contract to include provisions for shared decisionmaking at each of the district's 117 schools.

But Edward J. Garner, president of the Denver school board, and Jeanne Beyer, a spokesman for the d.c.t.a., offered different estimations of what form the Governor's recommendations would take.

Ms. Beyer said, for example, that the association expects the Governor to include "a very specific structure to be used" in making decisions at the schools.

But Mr. Garner said he anticipates that the provision will be in "very general terms, so that we don't get locked into a specific way of doing things in every school."

Many Issues Unresolved

The hearings conducted by the state also addressed other issues still dividing the Denver school board and the teachers' union, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

These include the length of teachers' workdays and what their responsibilities should be; the district's transfer policy for teachers; the system for evaluating them; and the cost of salaries and health-insurance benefits.

Governor Romer also expressed frustration with the Denver schools' traditional salary schedule, which rewards teachers for the length of time they have taught in the district and the number of graduate-level course credits they have accumulated.

The school board had sought during the negotiations to give newer teachers larger raises than those awarded veteran teachers. That proposal drew sharp protests from the union.

A variety of witnesses were invited to testify during the unusual proceedings initiated by Governor Romer. Those appearing included teachers and administrators from Colorado districts already engaged in shared decisionmaking, the mayor of Denver, and representatives of community and parent groups in the city.

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