Teachers and administrators at West Chicago's Community High School have reached a tentative contract agreement after nearly 11 months of negotiations, officials said Monday.
Tony Molinaro, who is one of three West Chicago High School District 94 board members serving on the district's negotiating team, said the two sides reached consensus on "all open items" of the contract during a five-hour bargaining session that ended Sunday night.
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"It was a very cordial, productive session," he said.
School board President Katherine Doremus and union President Kristina Mallon issued a joint statement confirming the tentative pact early Monday evening but provided no details.
The agreement will go first to the teachers union and then to the school board for ratification votes, but neither side provided a timetable.
Doremus said officials are hopeful the teachers will ratify the contract in time for the board to take its vote on Feb. 7. She said the board is certain to approve the agreement.
"We worked way too hard not to," she said.
In their statement, Doremus and Mallon said they are "both pleased to have reached this tentative agreement and look forward to using the experience and insight gained through the past 11 months as an opportunity for better communication and increased collaboration for all stakeholders in the district."
The union's four-year contract expired Aug. 22 and teachers at the high school have been working since that time under the provisions of the earlier agreement. The two sides had been meeting with a federal mediator since July.
Members of the West Chicago High School Teachers Association earlier this month filed a notice of an impasse in negotiations with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
On Jan. 18, both sides submitted what they called their "best, last and final" offer to the same board.
Had they not reached an agreement early this week, both those final offers would have been posted Jan. 25 on the labor relations board's website at www2.illinois.gov/elrb.
Doremus said it's possible the two offers still might appear on the web at that time, but neither side is worried if they do.
"The offers are amazingly similar," she said. "The disparities are not that great."
She said the final obstacles to reaching the tentative agreement primarily focused on "philosophical differences" involving insurance.
Both sides indicated they felt close to a settlement entering Sunday's talks. That was in stark contrast to a week earlier when the union's lead negotiator, Amy Gibson, said there had been "a drastic change in what had been a collaborative relationship in the past."
The union represents 138 members who serve roughly 2,150 students from West Chicago, Winfield, Carol Stream, Warrenville and unincorporated areas near Wheaton.