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updated: 3/2/2011 11:04 PM

Palatine District 15 board asking teachers to open contract

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In the wake of deficit spending that's projected to nearly wipe out a currently healthy reserve fund over the next five years, the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board Wednesday unanimously agreed to approach the teachers union about opening its current employment contract.

Should the Classroom Teachers' Council agree to come back to the table early, however, negotiations wouldn't take place until after the new board is seated on April 27.

Citing the current economic and political climate, member Rich Bokor motioned to have board President Gerald Chapman appoint two members to work with Superintendent Scott Thompson to initiate contract discussions if the CTC leadership was willing.

Bokor made clear that he wasn't the first person on the board to bring up the idea, but thought now "was a good time to make an overture to the CTC" given the pressure on Wisconsin's public employees to make concessions and similar discussions in area school districts like Barrington Unit District 220.

CTC President Lisa Nuss couldn't be reached for comment.

Member Sue Quinn questioned the timing and pointed out that she and member Tim Millar were the only board members to vote against the three-year contract, which expires June 30, 2012, and gives teachers salary bumps of 0.75, 1.19 and 1.39 percent on top of step and lane increases.

Millar had discussed the idea of approaching the union as far back as last June, Quinn said.

Bokor responded that Millar never put a formal action on the agenda, to which Quinn said, "there was no indication that there was any support on the board for this besides Tim and myself."

Millar, who at multiple board meetings has talked about asking teachers to renegotiate, said he never put the motion to a vote because it was clear he didn't have the board's support during a past closed meeting discussion. He also would have preferred to formally approach the union in private, he said.

Quinn, saying she wanted to make sure the board is serious about the initiative, proposed not picking the board delegates and setting contract goals until after the election. Only Bokor voted against the delay.

Member Peggy Babcock voted with Quinn to wait, but said the entire board is taking the process seriously and that she resented the implication the timing was political.

Though less than 16 months remain on the current contract, board members say renegotiating is worth the attorney fees because a less lucrative multiyear deal may be reached and negotiations would take place next year anyway.