D300, union come to terms on 1-year contract

After two months of negotiations, the Community Unit District 300 school board and the District 300 teachers union have come to a tentative agreement on a new one-year contract, both parties said this morning.

The Local Education Association of District 300 will bring the tentative agreement to its membership today — the last day of classes — with a vote to ratify scheduled for Tuesday.

Terms of the contract will not be released until both the union and the school board formally agree to them, the release said.

A special board meeting is slated for Wednesday, June 1.

“I think this is a very good agreement for the school district and I am appreciative of the school union for working with us,” board member Joe Stevens said.

Mike Williamson, communications chairman for LEAD 300, said the negotiations were the best collaborative work the two sides could do.

“It was intense work and we have gotten to a place we feel like everyone can live with,” Williamson said. “This is a contract we feel we can put before the school board and the union membership.”

The district had requested $5.2 million in wage and benefit concessions from the teachers union to help overcome an $8.3 million budget deficit in the 2011-2012 budget.

In March, the school board approved $3.1 million in program and teacher reductions, which included laying off 363 teachers and administrators. District leaders said the layoffs were needed to restructure secondary schools. Depending on which reorganization option the school board approved, district leaders said they expected to recall about half of the laid off teachers.

But Williamson said the union is hopeful the new contract will sidestep the need for any layoffs.

“Part of the point is to bring back everybody and keep the integrity of the education for the students,” Williamson said. “We wanted to avoid the large class sizes where students are unable to learn.”

In addition, Williamson said, the one-year contract would buy the district more time to plan for a major overhaul, thus ending discussions about implementing an unpopular three-block schedule at the high school level next year.

“This will allow the district to move into restructuring and have planning time so that the educational situation is better in the district,” Williamson said. “We think this will put education back where it has been in District 300.”

The one-year contract, once ratified, will be effective July 1.