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Douglas County School District

dcsd_web.jpg A partnership between the 4th largest school district in Colorado, its employees, and their unions has resulted in improved instructor training and higher student achievement.

In Partnership With: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Innovative partnership helps students excel

At a Glance

Douglas County School District is the 4th largest district in Colorado. Douglas County is the fastest growing suburb of Denver.

Castle Rock, CO



Union Employees
5,250 teachers, support staff, and school bus drivers

Total Employees

Annual Revenues

60 schools

44,800 students

There is no statutory basis for collective bargaining in Colorado, but when the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT)1 demonstrated that a majority of the support staff wanted union representation earlier this year, the Douglas County School District embraced a higher standard and agreed to recognize the union and subsequently bargain with them. Like teachers and bus drivers before them, these employees are the latest to benefit from the district’s willingness to recognize, negotiate, and collaborate with its employees’ unions to provide top-notch instruction to students.

The school board involves teachers in every aspect of decision-making. The union president is on the superintendent’s cabinet and an additional cabinet position is being created to represent non-teaching staff. Together, the school board and DCFT have developed one of the longest-running performance pay programs in the country, along with other initiatives that recognize the link between enhancing teachers’ skills and improving student achievement.

The history of working together served the school district and its teaching staff well in 1992 when difficult contract negotiations were taking place against a backdrop of across-the-board budget cuts. District representatives and DCFT put their heads together and retooled the Douglas County Teacher Performance Pay Plan (TPPP).

The new agreement included bonus incentives for responsibilities that were not traditionally compensated, such as rewarding teachers who participate in activities that directly improve student performance. The TPPP provides a base salary structure and additional compensation for teachers whose students excel. Elementary school teachers have increased time for planning, and high school teachers participate in professional learning communities to upgrade their skills. Teachers in all grades receive seven professional development days annually.

The partnership is constantly looking for new ways to improve education for its students.  The DCFT Project Team seeks to optimize instruction time by examining how teachers spend their time, rating activities that add the most value to student learning, and discontinuing activities that do not enhance student development. Since the implementation of the pay plan, student achievement in Douglas County has improved on virtually all measures. Students scored higher than the state average in every grade and subject tested by the Colorado State Assessment Program’s standardized tests. In Douglas County, 64 percent of high school students have a GPA of 3.0 or above.

In addition to student achievement, Douglas County’s labor-management model has resulted in the successful recruitment and retention of excellent educators. Douglas County is a visionary employer that realizes that employee participation in planning inspires and empowers teachers to give their very best in the classroom.

Selection Criteria

> Free and fair choice to form a union

> Collaborating as equal partners with workers and their unions to craft innovative strategies on compensation, performance, and productivity to meet business goals and address challenges

> Contributing positively to the broader community

> Providing sustainable wages or increases and worker-friendly benefits

> Creating new jobs and implementing employee retention strategies

> Offering training and professional development opportunities