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updated: 9/12/2013 4:20 PM

Dist. 15 board divided on recent union contracts

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Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board's surprising display of unity last year to unanimously support the teachers contract hasn't exactly carried over into more recent negotiations.

The board narrowly approved the Educational Support Personnel Association's new four-year labor agreement Wednesday by a 4-3 vote. The same members aligned themselves the same way in June on the transportation union's deal.

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Scott Herr, Gerard Iannuzzelli and Manjula Sriram, who ran as a slate in 2011, said they couldn't get on board with either one.

Superintendent Scott Thompson outlined several highlights of the contract, which covers about 450 nurses, clerical staff, interpreters and program, reading and bilingual assistants.

He said the wage increase will be 2.25 percent annually including step movement for years of experience. Nurses with master's degrees will make $1.50 more per hour, a raise of 75 cents, than nurses without. Interpreters when needed will make $20 an hour, up from $15.

In addition, all employees will need to work 5.5 hours a day to qualify for health benefits. Some working less were grandfathered into the previous deal. And after three years, retirement benefits will sunset.

"I think there are three major flaws with this agreement," Herr said.

For one, Herr said the contract is worth about $55 million yet didn't undergo attorney review. He also said the negotiating team made changes not in line with the board's established guidelines. Finally, Herr said the "terms and conditions are inconsistent with some of the other negotiated agreements."

Iannuzzelli agreed legal counsel should have reviewed the document, while Sriram made a statement to the same effect as Herr's.

"While I respect and appreciate what our ESPA members do for the students, I can't agree to this contract," Sriram said.

Casting votes for both the ESPA's and transportation union's deals were Richard Bokor, who represented the board during the ESPA negotiations, as well as board President Peggy Babcock, James Ekeberg and David Seiffert.

It will be awhile until the board faces a similar vote; the next employee group's deal doesn't expire until mid-2015.

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