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updated: 5/6/2014 5:31 PM

New contract gives Dist. 207 teachers merit pay

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Maine Township High School District 207 teachers who earn "excellent" ratings on annual evaluations will be eligible for $1,250 merit stipends, under terms of a five-year contract extension approved this week.

District 207 is believed to be one of the few school districts in Illinois to include merit stipends in a teachers contract, officials said.

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"Teachers have been taking pride in improving their craft," said Superintendent Ken Wallace. "There's objective criteria to meet that standard. Teachers understand the hard work to maintain that."

The school board Monday unanimously approved the contract with the Maine Teachers Association, which represents some 560 teachers and teacher assistants at Maine West, Maine East and Maine South high schools. Last week, the union ratified the deal, which runs through Aug. 1, 2020.

A new state-mandated teachers evaluation system has been in place for the last two years, but starting in the 2015-16 school year, those evaluations will count toward merit pay. Department chairs typically conduct evaluations, based on grading rubric established by district officials and the teachers union, Wallace said.

Part-time teachers also are eligible for a prorated merit stipend, if they work at least half the amount of time of a full-time teacher.

Teachers assistants are not eligible for a merit stipend.

All those represented by the teachers union will receive 2 percent salary increases in the first year of the contract extension (2015-16). In the next four years, salary increases will be tied to a formula that takes into account the Consumer Price Index. According to the salary formula, increases could range from 1 percent to 3 percent.

District officials said that was an important element of the contract because the district's annual property tax levy also is tied to the CPI.

"It helps us control fixed costs moving forward and provides stability for teachers," Wallace said. "It's a fair deal on both sides."

In a statement, union President Mike Poehler said, "The MTA worked with the board of education to extend our current agreement with a goal of creating a mutually beneficial financial arrangement tied to the (cost of living adjustment) indices with shared risk and benefits in an uncertain economic environment."

Also under the new contract, five additional steps have been added to the salary schedule, from 25 to 30.

The first step, representing the pay for a newly hired teacher with a bachelor's degree and no previous professional experience, is $55,681. The 30th step, representing the pay for a 30-year employee with a master's degree and additional training, is $132,635.

Wallace said the contract also includes language that would prevent the district from being penalized with a so-called "Cadillac tax" in 2018 under the federal health care reform law.

Teachers sought to reopen the prior three-year contract, which was due to expire in August 2015, because of changes in pension laws, said Wallace, who expects about half of the district's teaching staff to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. Negotiations began in February.

Before the last three-year pact, the three previous contracts were each for five years.

The Maine Teachers Association is the district's only employee union.

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