D204 board barely OKs teacher contract
By David Sharos For The Sun September 4, 2012 7:46PM
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:58PM
The Indian Prairie District 204 School Board approved a new two-year contract with the district’s teachers Monday night, but it was a close call.
The board OK’d the contract by a 4-3 vote. The contract calls for teachers to get a 2.13 percent raise during the current school year and a 2.89 percent pay hike next year.
The contract also calls for reforms including:
The elimination or reduction of retirement health care benefits for teachers retiring under the contract.
The reduction of paid benefits for part-time tenured employees.
A freeze on stipends paid to teachers for extra duties such as coaching and clubs.
Before voting, board members weighed in on the impact of the agreement, which some felt was plagued with too many financial uncertainties. School board member Mark Rising praised the district for maintaining a balanced budget in the current climate, but expressed fears about the long-range financial aspects of the contract.
“We have too many things we have to do and there are no other options for the money we need,” Rising said. “The teachers I have talked to want the district to invest money into the district so further cuts won’t have to be made.”
Board member Dawn DeSart also said she would not support the contract based on too many issues not resolved concerning state funding for the district.
“This is just math. It’s not a motion, it’s just business,” she said.
Board member Susan Rasmus said the “staff was the district’s greatest asset” and that it was important to look at the “entire package.”
Late last month, teachers throughout the district’s 34 buildings voted to approve the measure by nearly a 2 to 1 margin, with 1,061 approving the proposed contract versus 582 that rejected it.
Indian Prairie Education Association Union President Val Dranias said concessions were made regarding coaching stipends as well as health benefits to help get the deal done.
“We froze pay on stipends for coaching and extracurricular assignments as well as eliminating retirement health care benefits and capping benefits for others that would retire under this contract,” Dranias said. “Our health care is self-funded, and we also reduced costs of the program to the district by nearly $1 million.”
Dranias said the current state of the district’s economy was considered throughout the negotiations, which began in January.
“We feel this is a fair agreement for both sides,” she said. “We were extremely cognizant of the financial implications on the district throughout the process.”
Board President Curt Bradshaw said the agreement represented compromises made on both sides and that “both the district and the teachers were stretched to their limit.”
“This is the first time we’ve gone back to school without a contract and needed a federal mediator,” Bradshaw said.
“This was about short-term cost and long-term gains. We’ve negotiated the best deal we can.”