District 230 approves three-year teacher contract

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The District 230 began the new school year by approving a three-year labor contract with the 550-member Teachers Association last week, and is looking forward to approving a balanced budget for the 13th consecutive year later this month.

The new contract approved at the Aug. 25 board meeting includes a 3.19 percent average annual salary increase for each of the next three years, the cost of which will be offset by savings from 17 known retirements at the end of the current school year. Coaches and sponsors of extra-curricular activities at the three high schools in the district --Stagg, Sandburg and Andrew -- will also receive a 0.75 percent increase in stipends for each of the three years of the agreement.

The Teachers Association voted to ratify the contract on Aug. 24, and both board members and teachers’ representatives credited the good working relationship of both negotiating teams for the success.

“We are trying to be fair to our taxpayers and recognize the outstanding job that our teachers do every day in our schools,” said Board President Rick Nogal at the meeting, who called the contract “a solid agreement.”

In addition to pay raises, the contract also includes changes to health insurance policies aimed at curbing rising costs. These include limiting insurance choices for new hires to the district to the more affordable HMO or health saving account plans. Teachers will also share in any future increased costs through a greater contribution toward insurance. New wellness initiatives are expected to reduce future health insurance costs.

“The contract fits our long-range fiscal plans and is supportive of providing an outstanding education for our students,” said Nogal.

“We are really happy to have this contract,” said Teachers’ Association President Michelle Etchason, who led the applause at the school board meeting when it was approved. “The District 230 Teachers' Association is vastly appreciative of its collaborative relationship with the administration and the board, an especially respectful and trustful partnership in light of the current political climate regarding unions.”

Etchason added that the new contract is one of many reasons why teachers have come back to school in such good moods. She said the rollout of the one-one technology program, with freshmen and sophomores receiving Chromebooks for use in class and at home has been a big hit with students and staff.

“Although we don’t always agree, we get things done in a collaborative way,” said the board’s education committee chair Denis O’Sullivan.

“I appreciate the professionalism and work completed by the negotiation teams,” said Supt. Dr. James Gay, who said he was “in the background” during the negotiations. “This is a reflection of the strong relationships that the school board and the administration have with our staff. The end result is a fair contract that is respectful of our staff and of the community we serve.”

The District 230 board’s next goal will be to approve its 2017 budget at the next board meeting being held on Thursday, Sept. 29 at Andrew High School, 9001 W. 171st St., Tinley Park.

The proposed $128,289,627 budget represents a 2.5 percent increase over last year. It would leave the district with $72,951 surplus at the end of the year, up from $46,652 last year.

Residents are invited to attend the required public hearing set for 7 p.m., followed by the regular monthly meeting. Because it is a balanced budget, the budget is likely to be approved at the meeting, meeting state law requirements that school budgets be approved during the first quarter of the school year.

Gay noted at the meeting the state Legislature is now into its second year without a balanced budget, although a temporary measure approved during the summer is providing funding for education through November. He said legislators are going to wait until after the Nov. 8 election to tackle the budget impasse again.