Despite union concerns, District 211 ready to vote on teachers contract

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members are scheduled to vote Thursday night on a four-year teachers contract reached last month to narrowly avert a strike, but the teachers union president said Wednesday the fine print of the document remains unsettled.

"We're in agreement on all the big stuff, but it's all or nothing," said John Braglia, president of Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211. "I want it done right, cleanly, without the public having to go through this any further."

District 211 officials expressed surprise over Braglia's qualms Wednesday but said a vote on the proposed contract would remain on Thursday's agenda.

A teachers strike was prevented just before semester finals last month by an eleventh-hour deal on the four-year contract.

Braglia expressed doubts Wednesday that the contract as written fully reflects the content of that deal. He said he and Superintendent Dan Cates never signed a tentative agreement as a more formal version of their negotiated settlement.

Braglia said he believes there are about half a dozen outstanding issues to be resolved.

"I don't want to create havoc, but from a legal standpoint and a contractual standpoint, the protocol the district is following is not a standard protocol," Braglia said.

Cates released a statement Wednesday detailing the compromises that enabled the contract's approval and avoided a strike.

"We have outstanding staff members across an array of employee groups, and in the final weekend of discussions, both parties compromised to find a narrow solution that recognized as many employees as possible," he wrote. "Keys to the compromises included delaying some of the new terms until the later years of the contract, holding some stipend amounts at their present levels, and consolidating some of the smaller departments."

The proposed contract includes base salary increases of 2 percent for the first two years and increases equal to the rate of inflation up to 1.75 percent in the third year and up to 1.5 percent in the fourth year, officials said.

Under the terms of the contract for the current school year, a first-year teacher would have a base salary of $53,851, the highest-paid teacher in the district would have a base salary of $131,221, and the median base salary - halfway between the lowest and highest - would be $111,337.

Up to now, teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract in regard to their annual step increases. A first-year teacher had been on track to earn a base salary of $52,795 this year, the highest base salary has been $128,648, and the median $109,154.

Under the proposed contract, teachers will pay higher premiums for health insurance, and the two most costly insurance plans will no longer be available by the end of the contract. The district's health insurance is self-funded and the changes are intended to reduce costs substantially, officials said.

In compliance with recent law, end-of-career salary increases will be reduced by half and limited to an annual increase of 3 percent to help reduce future pension liabilities.

Teachers pursuing graduate education will pay a larger portion of their tuition costs, while the district continues to invest in those earning required credentials to teach courses that qualify for both high school and college credit.

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