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posted: 6/11/2010 12:01 AM

Itasca teachers accept one-year pay freeze

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Teachers in Itasca Elementary District 10 have agreed to a one-year salary freeze that will save the district about $185,000 next year.

Although their contracts do not expire for two years, leaders of the Education Association of Itasca approached the District 10 school board to ask how they could help with the district's financial crunch. Ultimately, they agreed to forego a scheduled 4.9 percent raise.

Administrators, Superintendent Marcia Tornatore and nonunion support staff also agreed to freeze their salaries for the 2010-11 school year.

"There were several options to save money and that included eliminating some non-mandated programs," Tornatore said Thursday. "It was just such a great team effort and, as a result, we did not eliminate any programs."

The move also means teachers currently employed by the district will keep their jobs for another year, while administrators fill eight positions eliminated last winter during budgeting.

"We will be restaffing and the teachers who were let go will come up for interviews," Tornatore said.

Like school districts across the state, District 10 is suffering a budget crunch resulting from flat property tax revenues and lack of funding from the state.

To make up for the shortfall, last winter the school board approved cuts from the technology fund, reduced bus runs, decreased stipends for before- and after-school programs, and increased preschool tuition. The savings totaled about $400,000 from the district's $11 million budget, officials said.

Teacher's union President Bryen Travis said the salary freezes allow Itasca schools to preserve essential programs.

"We wanted to maintain the professional working standards in the schools and felt this was the way we could best do that," he said. "We're trying to keep what we have as a school."