‘We don’t have to operate that way’: An end to parent-teacher conferences in new District 214 teachers’ contract

An end to “ceremonial” parent-teacher conferences, keeping the block schedule, and trying to retain in-house coaches and club sponsors are among the key provisions in a five-year teachers’ contract approved by the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board Friday.

The new agreement calls for the meetings between parents and teachers — held annually in October — to be replaced with conversations by phone or Zoom whenever a student’s grade drops to a D or F, or “on demand” meetings whenever a parent wants to talk.

District officials say only 20% of parents attend the conferences, while other districts are doing away with the scheduled meetings, as well.

“We don’t have to operate that way,” Superintendent Scott Rowe said at a special school board meeting Friday morning before the contract was approved 6-0. “Parent-teacher conferences are almost ceremonial. We want it to serve a purpose.”

  Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe Paul Valade/

In an effort to incentivize coaches and club moderators to stay in their positions, the new contract also phases in four new steps to a stipend payment schedule.

Board member Frank Fiarito said some schools lack club sponsors, and the current system is hampering activities that could be offered to students.

So the new provision also addresses equity across the district’s six high schools, said Rowe and Kate Kraft, the district’s associate superintendent for human resources.

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Kate Kraft

“A club might start at one building and there’s a stipend available for it, and then it starts at another building and there wasn’t a stipend available,” Kraft said. “Part of the work was to make sure there was equity among what we offered and how we compensated people who were a part of that.”

The new contract guarantees a block schedule with 85-minute classes for at least the next two school years. The school day also will start slightly earlier — 8:20 a.m. — and end at 3:10 p.m., Rowe said.

Employees covered by the agreement — more than 900 teachers, counselors, non-classroom personnel, nurses and specialists — are due to receive base salary increases of 4% in each of the first two years of the contract, and raises tied to the consumer price index — between 1% and 4% — in each of the last three years.

Tim Keeley, the district’s associate superintendent for business services, said the personnel costs fit within the district’s five-year financial forecast.

Teachers who earn specialty endorsements for bilingual education, special education, and career and technical education will receive one-time stipends of $1,500.

That’s amid an increase in the number of students learning English — a population that was in the hundreds two decades ago, but in the thousands today, said Nichole Anderson, president of the District 214 Education Association.

“Our needs are going to continue to rise even if our populations continue to drop,” said Anderson, a social science teacher at Rolling Meadows High School. “I think we’re good, but I want us to continue to remain good.”

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board President Alva Kreutzer

Though school board President Alva Kreutzer said she’s been involved in other contract negotiations before, this was the first time she was on the district’s negotiating team for the teachers’ contract. The agreement was hashed out over 11 bargaining sessions.

“As a board member, our job is to macromanage the district, and not micromanage the district,” Kreutzer said. “The inner workings, the struggle sometimes that the Education Association has — it was really very eye opening, and I really appreciate the frank conversations.”

The new agreement runs through the 2028-29 school year.

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