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DPS, teachers continue to negotiate as strike looms

The school district offered a $334 million compensation package.

DENVER — In the final efforts of trying to avoid a teachers strike, there is one person in the room who does not have to be there.

"I have had kids in the district and they have fabulous teachers," Deanne Kapnik said.

She is not a teacher. She's not on the PTA of a Denver school. But, Kapnik felt the need to witness the teacher negotiations herself to show support.

"I started following on Facebook what was going on and the inequity is overwhelming," Kapnik said.

With seven days left on the current contract, Superintendent Susana Cordova walked in to Friday's proceedings with a new deal to offer.

"We are working on changes to the proposal that you saw on Tuesday," Cordova said.

The district is proposing a $334 million compensation package that would establish an average base salary of $62,529. DPS even promises to pay the agreed amount even if the yearly revenue comes in below their projections.

"One of the questions that we've heard that's come up is concerns around whether or not our approach to money is actually accurate," Cordova said.

But, the lead negotiator for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Rob Gould, has his doubts about the district's intentions.

"Why do you think we've developed such a mistrust of the district within the last 10 years when it comes to this subject, cause you're spending a lot of time on this," Gould said.

Cordova just accepted the superintendent's job and has only been to two negotiation sessions.

"I can't do anything about the past," Cordova said. "My direction now has been how to we try to create a new way of interacting with each other to be able to do that."

Cordova said she enters these discussions with integrity and honesty.

"I see lot of words. I hear a lot of words. This seems a little bit more like a (public relations) thing," Gould said. "We really need to move on these core issues and the trust follows."

"I can't make you trust me and I can't make you want to trust me," Cordova said.

If a deal cannot be reached, the teachers can vote to strike on January 19. Cordova says she will ask the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to intervene to try to prevent a strike.

The looming prospect of a strike is why Kapnik feels like she needs to be at the negotiations herself.

"I worry about the kids and families that are having to deal with that," Kapnik said.

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