District 211 teachers contract late, but both sides happy so far

Though Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 teachers' current four-year contract expires Saturday without a new one approved, both union and district officials say there's nothing unusual or worrisome about the current state of negotiations.

"I'm optimistic," said John Braglia, president of Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211. "I'm not cautiously optimistic. I am optimistic."

"It's been a great process so far and we continue to make very good progress," District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen concurred.

Braglia, who's negotiated contracts for the union for 30 years, said more often than not negotiations aren't completed before the expiration of the previous contract due to the sheer volume of work.

"We have accomplished a great many things," he said, including having updated 14 of the 26 existing articles in the contract and even adding some new ones at the district's request.

Money and salary issues are not what are slowing down negotiations, Braglia said. The union isn't seeking raises in base pay such as 3 percent per year that would be much bigger than those in the past contract, he said.

"There's nothing happening right now to alarm the taxpayers," he said.

Under the expiring four-year contract, the annual increases to base salaries were 0 percent, 0.2 percent, 0.25 percent and 0.4 percent.

While the length of the new contract hasn't been settled on yet, Braglia said something of typical length - no longer than four years - has been the goal all along. He said he hasn't and wouldn't ask for anything nearly as long as the 10-year contract Palatine Township Elementary District 15 approved in 2016.

The 12 articles that remain to be settled involve such issues as retirements, extracurriculars and other administrative functions of the contract, Braglia said.

Both he and Board of Education President Mucia Burke agreed that the addition of a board representative in the negotiating room has been a positive change for both parties. Board member Anna Klimkowicz has been serving as a direct liaison to the negotiations for her colleagues.

Everyone in the negotiating room has benefitted because all of them ultimately work for the board, Braglia said.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "There's a lot of clarity, a lot of transparency. I'm talking to my boss directly and not through a conduit."

Burke said the board members usually get quick updates on the negotiations from the administration, as has always been the case, since the Illinois Open Meetings Act places no restrictions on such communication. But they then get a personal account of the talks from Klimkowicz as soon as they're able to gather in closed session at a publicly noticed meeting.

Braglia said the aim is still to get the contract talks done as soon as possible, but historically when they're not finished by June 30 they're not complete by the first day of classes, either.

The current contract was ratified by the union in late August 2014 and approved by the board in mid-September.

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