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updated: 6/3/2011 6:29 AM

District 300, union look to next steps

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For months, bargaining teams for Community Unit District 300 and the Local Education Association for District 300 sat on opposite sides of the negotiating table to hammer out a one-year contract for more than 1,200 teachers.

Sessions lasted until 2 a.m. Some doubted an agreement could be reached based on the concessions both parties were requesting. An unpopular proposal to restructure secondary school schedules seemed inevitable.

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But at the eleventh hour, a contract was signed. Now, representatives from both sides say they are ready to drop the "us versus them" mindset, instead focusing on ways to improve communication across the district.

The one-year agreement ratified Wednesday by the school board resulted in the recalling of 363 teachers who were laid off in March. The agreement includes the creation of a Collaborative Council, a hand-picked group of teachers and administrators tasked with improving communication among teachers, principals and central office administrators.

Superintendent elect Michael Bregy, who officially takes over on July 1, said creating the council is the first step in working more closely with the union.

"We need to pull together to rebuild trust in the school district," Bregy said after Wednesday's special board meeting.

Bregy said LEAD 300 and the superintendent will choose individuals to serve on the committee. The members will be mutually agreed upon.

"It's not going to be people on my side or LEAD with people on their side," Bregy said. "We are going to pick people together."

LEAD 300 spokesman Mike Williamson said the idea for the council grew out of a suggestion from elementary school teachers.

"We have so many elementary schools that teachers often didn't know what was happening at other schools," Williamson said. "Different schools have different needs. The point is to facilitate discussion back and forth so we can address real issues."

While details of the council's makeup have not been completed, Williamson said the newly appointed assistant superintendents for teaching and learning will be central figures.

"They have the most agency and authority to make changes," Williamson said. "Communication can be improved just because somebody knows something. We at the single schools are stuck at that school. But the teaching and learning team will be going in and out of buildings and can hopefully solve issues quickly."

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