While their current contract doesn't expire for seven months, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211 already are working on the next one.
"The board of education and the administration of District 211 are presently engaged in negotiations with the District 211 teachers union," Superintendent Dan Cates said. "The terms of the current contract are set to expire on June 30, 2018. Formal negotiations between the parties began in October with the goal of reaching an agreement prior to the end of the current contract."
With the controversy over Palatine Township Elementary District 15 reaching an unusually long 10-year contract with its teachers in 2016, public interest in the District 211 negotiations began well before the next contract will go into effect.
At candidate forums last March, hopefuls for the board of education were asked about how open negotiations would be and how much the board would be represented in the negotiations.
"Like all negotiations in District 211, the negotiating parameters are established by the seven-member board of education," Cates said. "These guiding parameters are determined as a result of comprehensive review of existing contract language, financial projections, and deliberation by the board of education.
"Regarding people who attend the sessions, the board's attorney and a board member are present, along with members of the administration," Cates said. "We anticipate that the negotiations will continue into the spring of 2018 and the final collective bargaining agreement will include the terms of the full contract."
A year after District 15's teachers contract was approved, that district has had bumpy negotiations for its next support staff contract, including a 10-day strike last month.
In contrast, during at least the past decade, District 211's teachers and support staff contracts have been on the same cycle. Both unions' three most recent contracts spanned 2007 to 2009, 2009 to 2014, and 2014 to 2018.
John Braglia, president of the District 211 teachers union, said the volatility of the economy makes the length of each contract something that's not predetermined. He said typically each contract's length is something talked about relatively late in the negotiation process and usually as a suggestion of the board of education.
Braglia said he intends to introduce a new approach for his own final negotiations that he hopes will be positive. He described the approach -- based on a comprehensive solicitation of information from union members -- as one aimed at problem-solving for all stakeholders.
"Our position is to make this a very positive experience for all parties involved," Braglia said. "I understand this costs money. Everything costs money. We're going to do what's best for the kids and the people we serve. We're respectful of the community."
He said huge raises have not been characteristic of District 211 contracts, but that the union's aim continues to be a contract that will attract and retain the best talent in the face of a teacher shortage.
Braglia said it's new for a school board member to be present in District 211 contract talks, but he has no problem with it.
"We will be as transparent as we can be," Braglia said. "The salary increases I'm seeking are consistent with what's allowable, what the district can afford and respectful to the taxpayers."