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Article updated: 1/30/2012 4:55 PM

Oak Brook schools declare contract impasse

By Bob Smith

Teachers and administrators in Oak Brook's Butler Elementary District 53 have declared an impasse after nearly a full year of contract talks, officials said Monday.

Both sides submitted their final offers Jan. 23 to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and those offers were posted Monday on the board's website at www2.illinois.gov/elrb/Pages/FinalOffers.aspx.

School board President Alan Hanzlik said the two sides have agreed on everything except salary in the proposed three-year pact.

The school board is offering salary increases of 2.3 percent in the first year, 2.8 percent in the second and 3.3 percent in the third.

The union wants 3.3 percent raises in the first year and 3.8 percent raises in each of the next two.

Hanzlik said he made a new offer to union leadership on Sunday calling for 3 percent raises in each of the next four years, but it was rejected.

"We adore our teachers," he said, "but there is a philosophical difference at this time about what is fair."

Union President Andrew Griffith could not immediately be reached for comment.

The high-achieving district serves a combined 435 students at Brook Forest Elementary and Butler Junior High. The union represents roughly 49 teachers.

District officials say the average District 53 teacher is paid $83,834 a year for 181 days of work, the third-highest salary among elementary districts in the state. They say the average teacher also receives $15,124 in benefits, bringing the annual compensation package to $98,958.

The most senior teachers at the top of the salary scale receive annual pay of $99,721 and total yearly compensation packages of $114,845 with benefits, district officials said.

Hanzlik said teachers in the district have seen their salaries increase by an average of 6.9 percent in each of the past five years.

He praised the teachers for helping make Butler one of the highest-achieving districts in the state, but said the board's latest offer was even better than the contract teachers agreed to in nearby Hinsdale High School District 181.

"We want to settle the contract. We've got great teachers; we respect them, and they do a great job," Hanzlik said. "But the board just felt it would be irresponsible for us to go any higher."

He said district officials realize they have to pay to attract the best teachers, but said the District 53 faculty already is in the "upper one-tenth of 1 percent" in terms of teacher pay.

He said the two sides met 24 times during the past year, including three sessions with a federal mediator.

"There was give and take on both sides," he said. "There were key things we wanted that we didn't get and there were key things they wanted but didn't get."

The school board declared the impasse Jan. 12 and both the district and Oak Brook Education Association submitted their final contract offers on Jan. 19.

Officials said the district compared compensation for Butler teachers to nine of the region's highest-performing schools, based on ISAT scores, and found the Butler salaries were $10,755 a year higher than the average of those districts. Officials said the district's educational expenditure was an average of 24 percent higher than those nine other districts.

The teachers contract expired in August and they have been working under the provisions of last year's pact. If and when an agreement is reached, the new contract will be retroactive to last summer.

If teachers elect to strike, they would be required to provide 10 days notice of intent; the earliest a job action could occur would be Feb. 13.

Hanzlik said letters explaining the breakdown in talks will be sent to parents in the next day or two. The district held one informational session with parents on Monday and has plans for two more on Tuesday. The district also will be providing updates on its website at butler53.com.

"We don't want to shock the community," Hanzlik said. "We want everybody to know where we are."

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