Hawthorn District 73, teachers reach 5-year pact

Teachers in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 will begin the 2020-21 school year with a new five-year contract.

The pact was overwhelmingly ratified by the Hawthorn Education Association and unanimously approved by the school board. The votes capped a process that began last September and included eight monthly meetings.

Under the terms, the average annual salary increase will be 2.9% for teachers and 2.63% for paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians, nurses and other support staff. New teachers will have a starting salary of $43,196.

The agreement covers 357 teachers and includes a voluntary retirement incentive for those with 20 or more years of service.

The current contract ends June 30.

Negotiations were made a priority last summer, according to school board President Robin Cleek. Parameters included reaching an agreement before the end of the school year that was fiscally responsible while recognizing the "significant contributions" staff make daily, she said.

Another requirement was that the contract would have to be approved by at least 80% of union members. It was ratified by 87.5% of members after a process both sides praised as respectful and collaborative.

"I think it's exciting that the process built trust and helped us move forward in becoming one," Cleek said.

Negotiations continued when schools were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and were completed virtually.

"With a five-year contract, newer teachers can feel confident about the district's willingness to support us and it gives veteran teachers salaries and benefits that are competitive with surrounding districts," said Millie Naughton, union co-president and a second grade teacher at the Hawthorn School of Dual Language.

District 73 teachers were compared with other districts in staff retention, salary, benefits, length of an instructional day, teacher planning time and other areas.

"The board examined what was working and what wasn't in our current contract," Cleek said.

In 2023-24, the student instructional day will increase to seven hours from 6.25 hours for elementary and 6.5 hours for middle school students. A committee will be formed the year before to determine how that will be structured.

Also that year, early release half days and bimonthly staff meetings will be replaced with weekly professional development time. On Wednesdays, students will be dismissed 30 minutes early and teachers will have 90 minutes of "learning and collaboration," according to the contract.

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Robin Cleek, president of the Hawthorn Elementary District 73 school board, said the process to reach a new 5-year contract helped build trust with teachers.
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