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updated: 6/8/2012 9:39 PM

Batavia teachers get new contract

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Batavia Public School teachers will get a pay boost, but they'll also have to pay more for health insurance under terms of a new contract the school board approved Friday.

The board voted 6-0 in favor of the two-year deal with the Batavia Education Association, which represents the 405 teachers, social workers and counselors who work in the district's nine schools.

The union's membership voted Wednesday to ratify the contract, with a "strong majority" in favor, according to Tony Malay, association president.

Teachers are coming off a five-year agreement that expires June 30. Both school district and union officials said a two-year deal was preferred due to economic uncertainties.

"A two-year agreement is about as far as we can predict at this point," Superintendent Jack Barshinger said. "It seemed to make sense to have two years of stability."

Added Malay: "It makes sense not to tie our hands too much so we can be more nimble as we learn what the real expectation of (state) legislation and the economy will be."

Teachers will receive salary increases of 2.35 percent in the first year of the contract, and 2.8 percent in the second year. Those figures include step increases, though the district's salary schedule will remain the same.

The district will pay 20 percent less for teachers' health insurance benefits each year -- a concession Malay said was "palatable" since teachers have been managing their own insurance, and renewal rates have been lower than the trend in the insurance industry.

The total compensation package for teachers in the first year of the deal is expected to decrease 6 percent, officials said.

The district also expects to see a decrease in total salary costs due to the retirement of 26 teachers this past school year. All positions will be filled, though at lower salaries for new hires, Barshinger said.

"Teachers understood the cost constraints we were under as a school district," Barshinger said. "Anytime you can reduce your teacher payroll expenses by 6 percent for the next school year -- partly through retirements, but also through the changing of benefits -- I've never seen it before in bargaining."

The contract also increases the amount of collaborative time for teachers to allow for discussion of instruction methods and student learning through professional learning communities. Elementary school teachers will have one such meeting a week, and middle and high school teachers will meet twice a month. The extra time comes from the elimination of four institute days when students wouldn't have attended school anyway.

The contract also finalizes a new teacher evaluation system, which will now be based on a four-tier rating system instead of three. Malay said the new system, based on the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010, is more evidence-based than subjective.

The new deal goes into effect July 1, and runs through June 30, 2014.

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