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updated: 12/19/2012 9:51 PM

Dist. 300 teachers approve contract

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It has been almost a year since Community Unit District 300 officials first met with representatives of the LEAD 300 union to discuss their labor contract. But at long last, the district is just one step away from having a done deal.

Teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, speech language pathologists and nurses voted Wednesday to approve the contract. Now it's up to the board of education to make the final move.

Details of the agreement are not being discussed publicly until after the District 300 board of education vote, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Westfield Community School in Algonquin. The latest offers available included salary increases of 2 and 3 percent throughout the life of the three-year agreement.

Negotiations hit an impasse in November, with the union officially filing the first step in a legal process that cleared the way for a strike. LEAD 300's almost 1,300 members picketed Dec. 4 in the district's first strike in 40 years. They returned to work the following day with a tentative agreement that negotiating teams continued to tweak in the following weeks.

The day the union announced the strike, a bargaining session ended with compensation and class size as the two major issues. Union spokesman Mike Williamson said LEAD 300 wanted 3 percent raises each year while the district posted an offer on its website proposing 3 percent in the first and third years of the contract and 2 percent in year two. Williamson also said teachers wanted class sizes capped at a lower number than the district would agree to in the context of a broader package.

The percentage of teachers voting in favor of the contract was unavailable Wednesday night.

Williamson said union members voted in their respective buildings throughout the day Wednesday with ballots counted in the early evening.

"From our point of view, it'll be good to get back to what we all do well and that is educating children," Williamson said. "Hopefully we'll move in a positive direction from here."

Joe Stevens, board of education member and district spokesman on negotiations, said they, too, are looking forward to the final vote and an end to the long bargaining process.

The contract will cover this academic year through 2014-2015.

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