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updated: 2/24/2014 6:40 PM

District 57 ratifies, releases contract details

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Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 released details Monday of its newly ratified, four-year teachers' contract, as well as a joint statement with the union expressing mutual satisfaction with the long-negotiated agreement.

School board President Karen Nejdl said one point both sides agreed on and sought to rectify was that the district's teachers have been among the lowest paid in the area.

The first year of the contract -- retroactive to the start of the current school year -- sees a 3 percent increase to the teachers' base salary and a 3 percent step increase for a total pay hike of 6 percent.

In year two, there is a 2 percent base increase and a 3 percent step increase for a total of 5 percent. And in years three and four, there is a 1 percent base increase and 3 percent step increase for a total of 4 percent each year.

The contract took just about a year to negotiate -- far longer than either side ever anticipated, Nejdl said. In late January, the Mount Prospect Education Association declared an intent to strike -- stepping up the pressure on the meetings that continued to occur between both sides.

What emerged was clearly a compromise, but one both sides appeared to be satisfied with, Nejdl said.

Union representatives could not be reached for comment Monday beyond the release of the joint statement with the board.

"We started listening to each other to figure out what was important one another," Nejdl said. "I think what started tipping it was when we started having those longer meetings."

The agreed upon salary increases will cause the district to have to dip into its reserves during the life of the contract, but Nejdl said she believes it to be a justified use of those funds.

When the last, two-year contract was approved, it was at a time when the economy was in particularly poor shape. Though the economy is still not in great shape, the slight improvements that have been seen have resulted in the building of reserves, Nejdl said.

Though the negotiations were both long and difficult, Nejdl believes there are no lingering feelings of animosity or bitterness.

"I think we have a newfound respect for each other, to be honest with you," she said.

She added that both sides learned the extent to which the other has people to answer to in agreeing to a contract.

In comparison with the new District 57 contract, the three-year contract Barrington Unit District 220 agreed to with its teachers last April was for an average annual increase of about 3.3 percent.

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