DENVER — If its teachers strike on Monday, Denver Public Schools officials plan to fill classrooms with substitute teachers and central office employees. But not every sub in the district is willing to go back to the classroom if it means not standing with their educator colleagues.
“Walking into a strange school where the students don’t know me, the teachers don’t know me, I think would be a very, very difficult job,” said Susan Cooper.
Cooper was a full-time teacher in Denver for nine years before retiring and becoming a sub last year. She works exclusively at Emily Griffith High School. Cooper says she won’t cross the picket line.
“Over the years, I’ve seen too many teachers leave DPS and leave the teaching profession for a number of reasons, one of which was pay,” Cooper said. “It’s not just about the salaries, but it’s about years of feeling undervalued.”
DPS has 1,400 central office employees and 1,200 substitute teachers. DPS has also hired 300 more subs through job fairs to prepare for a potential strike.
“There are some people that don’t have another choice of income right now that feel like they don’t have another choice but cross that line,” Cooper said.
DPS will be offering substitute teachers double pay during the strike. A district spokesman says they’ve been communicating with subs through calls and emails and “many have responded that they will be supporting us.”
Cooper said she only received one email weeks ago that she felt was directed to her as a substitute.
“There was no asking for any kind of a commitment back,” Cooper said. “It was just kind of them presenting their side and making their argument about hoping that the substitutes would come in and work with them.”
It’s unclear how many subs will show up for work on Monday. A district spokesperson says, “We have not received an anticipated number of jobs that need to be filled, but we will be prepared as the requests come into the system to ensure we are sending substitutes and Central Office staff to schools who have the greatest needs.”
DPS will hold another job hiring fair at the Emily Griffith campus downtown between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday. Two fairs will be held next week: on Tuesday, Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on Thursday, Feb. 14 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.