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updated: 2/8/2012 2:25 PM

District 94, teachers finalize three-year contract

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Teachers and administrators at West Chicago's Community High School have finalized a three-year contract that gives teachers 1 percent raises in each of the first two years and allows both sides to reopen compensation talks in the third year.

The West Chicago High School District 94 board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the pact, which already was ratified by the 138-member union.

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The agreement culminates roughly 11 months of negotiations that had appeared in jeopardy last month when members of the West Chicago High School Teachers Association filed a notice of impasse with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

But late in the month the two sides met for five hours on a Sunday and emerged with a tentative agreement that led to the final contract.

School board member Tony Molinaro, who served on the district's negotiating team, said the pact is retroactive to the start of the school year. The union's last four-year contract expired Aug. 22, and teachers have been working since then under the provisions of the earlier agreement.

The new contract provides teachers with 1 percent salary increases for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years; there are no "step" increases for experience.

Both sides will be able to reopen the contract for the third year to discuss salary, salary schedules, insurance premiums and benefits, retirement benefits, tuition reimbursement and extra duty pay.

Molinaro said increases in teacher salaries and insurance benefits in the first two years of the agreement will cost the district $550,000. He said the district will be able to pay for the increases without seeking extra taxpayer dollars and at the end of those two years the district's budget still will be balanced.

"We feel we've gotten a deal that offers benefits and savings for both teachers and the district," he said.

Union President Kristina Mallon was not immediately available for comment.

Molinaro said the district's average salary will increase from $58,322 last year to $58,900 this year and $59,494 next year.

Beginning teachers in the district are paid $40,852 this year and the top-paid teacher receives $93,031. Both would receive the 1 percent raises in each of the next two years.

The contract also calls for the creation of two committees that will feature administrators and union members.

The first will look at the district's salary schedule structure "from top to bottom," Molinaro said, with an eye toward developing a new one in time for the third year of the contract. The current schedule, he said, calls for so-called "step increases" for experience that in the past boosted average teacher pay about 2.75 percent a year.

The second committee will focus on getting a handle on insurance costs and "developing insurance programs that are beneficial to teachers and the district."

Molinaro said the negotiations lasted longer than either side would have liked, but, "we're happy we got something done that really looked at the economic conditions in the community."

"We felt we spent our money wisely and this allows us to move forward positively and pursue excellence in education," he said. "It was a long process, but it was worth the time."

The high school serves roughly 2,150 students from West Chicago, Winfield, Carol Stream, Warrenville and unincorporated areas near Wheaton.

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