(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Students at Doherty High School getting the day off because dozens of teachers called out to advocate for their pay on Thursday, May 4.

Over 20 Doherty High School teachers decided to call out, and the school was not able to make up the staff, according to District 11’s Chief Communications Officer, Devra Ashby. Teachers say it’s because of, what they’re calling, an unprecedented lack of communication from the district.

“I’ve been at Doherty for 8 years, but I’ve been in the district for 26 and I’ve been a teacher for 37 and I’ve never seen something like this,” said Christine Flemr, a Doherty High School teacher.

This is in reference to District 11’s new pay proposal that would cap teachers’ pay at $55,000. According to teachers, with this proposal, the only way a teacher could increase their pay is if they took on administrative roles.

“So an experienced teacher who chose to focus on being in the classroom, not assuming administrative duties, but really focusing on doing their best for students, would be relegated to that lowest salary,” said Bruce Cole, a Doherty High School Teacher.

Teachers say this segregation of pay undermines their profession.

“I’ve been a lifelong teacher and to see what I’ve given my heart and soul to over all these years, to just be dishonored by what appears to be preferring a revolving door to having people with experience is really disheartening,” said Flemr.

They said they were left completely in the dark in regard to this proposal, stating that they had gotten notification of it just two days prior.

“The fact that we found out about it two days ago was pretty surprising… Most of us really wanted to find out what was going on, and this was the best way to show support for our association and get the information,” said Gregory Gilbert, a Doherty High School teacher.

Teachers used their paid time off to attend Thursday’s bargaining meeting where this proposal would be negotiated. The bargaining meeting was held at the Tesla Educational Opportunity School, where the district would negotiate this proposal with a board of teachers. Many teachers showed up wearing red, in solidarity with educators.

“Supporting our representatives, I feel, is advocating in the way we can right now in this situation today… If this was the way to do it, I’m willing to give up one of my paid leave days, to try to make a difference,” said Flemr.

In an email notifying families about the school closure, District 11 Superintendent Michael Gaal,
said that the initiatives teachers are opposing are intended to “increase student achievement,” while also accusing the teachers of “making the conscious decision” of pushing aside the priority of educating their students.

“I think sometimes this gets viewed as we’re just taking off and leaving our kids behind, and that was the furthest thing from anybody’s minds…We want to have an integral part in helping have the best situation for our students because ultimately that’s what we’re all here for,” said Flemr.

According to teachers, the pay proposal now goes to the school board for review. The teachers are expected to get a final contact in a couple of weeks.