Dist. 220 board,teachers reach three-year deal
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The Barrington Unit District 220 board of education and teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a three-year teachers' contract, avoiding a potential strike later this month, officials announced Wednesday.
The agreement, formally announced in a joint statement on the district's website, barrington220.org, came after a negotiating session that began at 5 p.m. Tuesday and wrapped up about midnight Wednesday.
"After 11 months of negotiations that began in March 2012, the Barrington 220 Board of Education — representing the community — and the Barrington Education Association (BEA) — representing over 700 teachers employed by the school district — have tentatively reached a new three-year agreement," the statement reads.
"If ratified by the BEA membership and approved by the board at an upcoming meeting, the tentative agreement will be retroactive to the beginning of this school year when the previous contract expired."
A summary of the agreement will be available to the public once the agreement is ratified by members of the union and school board, officials said.
Jennifer Lekai, president of the North Barrington School Parent-Teacher Organization, said the number of suburban districts that have gone on strike this school year had made District 220 parents more fearful of a strike.
"Everyone's very excited that the tentative agreement was reached and has confidence that it will be ratified," Lekai said.
BEA President Melanie Collins said it is unclear exactly how long it would take for the union members to ratify the agreement by secret ballot.
If the ratification is made before the next school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, the board would likely cast its vote on final approval that night, board President Brian Battle said.
But if the BEA's ratification takes longer, the board would most likely vote at its following meeting on Tuesday, March 5.
Though all board members had a voice in the negotiations, Battle said he could not speak for how each will vote on the agreement.
While both sides have avoided speaking publicly about specifics of the negotiations, Battle described in general terms Wednesday how the long-elusive agreement finally was reached.
"It was a late night, but I can tell you we've had later nights," he said.
Collins said she felt the length of the negotiation period probably was the key factor in finally reaching agreement this week.
"Again, just the fact that we've been at this so long," Collins said.
Throughout the past 11 months, there have been about 40 economic and language issues in the contract to be resolved, Battle said. Even at the beginning of Tuesday's session there remained about 15 outstanding issues, he added.
But the board felt optimistic about the direction of negotiations since the start of the year and believed that every meeting could be the one that brought agreement, Battle said.
The difficult economic and legislative climate played a major role in how long negotiations took, he said. But the annual rate of inflation recently being identified as 1.7 percent, as well as the end of the January veto session in Springfield, helped resolve some uncertainties.
The agreement will make the board's task of budgeting for the next school year easier, and guarantees that current programs and staffing levels can be maintained, Battle said.
Had an agreement not been reached by Thursday, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board would have published each side's last and final offers from a week ago. Though those offers will not be publicly disclosed, Battle said they proved a useful steppingstone toward the agreement, which has much in common with the language of the last and final offers.
The teachers could have legally gone on strike as soon as Thursday, Feb. 21 if no agreement had been reached by then. District 220 teachers last went on strike in 1980, when classes were canceled for three days.
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