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Article updated: 11/30/2012 12:50 AM

Progress reported in District 300 talks

By Steve Zalusky

The spokesman for Community Unit District 300 reported significant progress after a negotiating session held Thursday night.

Board member and spokesman Joe Stevens said the two sides met at Westfield Community School for about 4 hours.

"I think their is general agreement on all major issues," he said, but added that "both sides recognize that we have some loose ends." He said the two sides would be meeting again at 8 a.m. on Monday to try to tie up those loose ends.

On Sunday, the union membership is scheduled to meet, he said.

Stevens did not relate specifics but said progress was made on the "financial issues": salary, retirement, benefits and board certification.

The issues that still need ironing out are what he called the "language issues."

Teachers in the district have filed an intent to strike notice, with the earliest a strike could occur being Monday.

In a letter to district employees, parents and the community, Superintendent Michael Bregy said the district is prepared to close all but three schools if teachers take to the picket line.

Bregy said the district would keep some schools open to assist parents who do not have other child care options available. The attendance centers will not provide instruction for students, Bregy said. Further information about attendance centers will be made available within the next several days.

At the same time the union filed an intent to strike notice, the final contract offers from both the union and school district were posted on the Illinois Education Labor Review Board website. According to the board's final offer, the $1.5 million difference on salaries remains the widest divide.

The teachers union proposed step increases plus base salary increases of 2.25 percent in the first year of the contract, 2.45 percent in the second and 2.7 percent in the final year. The increases include an average 2-percent step increase for years of service. Union representatives estimate the salary increases would cost the district about $6.4 million.

Meanwhile, the district has proposed salary increases of 2.75 percent for the 2012-13 school year, 2 percent in the second year and 2.5 percent in the third year. Those increases include an average 2-percent step increase each year. The total cost of the board's proposal is $4.9 million over the life of the contract.

In addition, the union proposed a retirement package that would reduce the end of career retirement incentive from 6 percent to 4 percent for the final four years of the teacher's career. The union estimates the 2 percent reduction will save the district about $20,000 per retiring teacher. Meanwhile, the district has proposed a retirement plan that gives teachers already in the retirement pipeline a 6 percent per year increase for the final four years. Those who give retirement notice beginning in the 2013-14 school year will receive a 3 percent increase for each of the final four years. The district is proposing to eliminate the increase after the 2014-15 school year.

Daily Herald staff writer Larissa Chinwah contributed to this report.

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