Dist. 300 recalls all 363 laid-off staff
The Community Unit District 300 school board and the teachers union have ratified a one-year contract that allows the district to bring back all 363 teachers and administrators who were laid off in March.
Board members voted 6-0 Wednesday, approving a one-year contract for Local Education Association District 300 teachers, as well as resolutions recalling tenured and nontenured teachers and administrators for the 2011-2012 school year. Board member Chris Stanton was absent.
The LEAD 300 membership ratified the agreement Tuesday. About 1,000 union members voted. However, a breakdown of vote totals was not available Wednesday night.
"This is a good contract for both sides," said Board President Anne Miller, who thanked the union leadership and teachers for their work. "The district will have a bright future regardless of the financial issues."
The contract, which is effective June 30, 2011, to July 1, 2012, includes salary freezes for all union members, as well as changes to the insurance plan. Teachers may select a health savings account that will save them more on out-of-pocket expenses than the current plan, or teachers may choose to continue on the current PPO or HMO plans with higher deductibles and copays.
In addition, teachers would have the same last day of school as students instead of being required to report to school the day after students leave. The union and school board will also create a collaborative council to address ongoing district educational initiatives and programs.
"Although it does include salary freezes, which I know we would all like not to do, the district is in dire straits and I don't see that changing anytime soon," board member Joe Stevens said. "I believe that we can keep the district stable and headed in the right direction to provide the best education possible."
Mike Williamson, union spokesman, said the contract meets that criteria.
"The whole point, the main point is to maintain the educational integrity of the students in the district," Williamson said. "The goal is to always make the education better."
The new contract eliminates the need for the district to restructure secondary schools for the time being, Superintendent Michael Bregy said.
"It keeps the same program that we have this year, which affords us time to look at changes in the future years," Bregy said. "There will be a secondary schools reorganization in the district, but it won't be in the fall."
A proposal to implement a three-block schedule at the high school level was unpopular with students, teachers and parents who feared the reduced course load would interfere with students' college prospects.
The new contract eases uncertainty for teachers who weren't sure if they would have a job in the fall.
"It has been a total upheaval of my life and my family's life," said Kimberly Bowen, a seventh-grade teacher at Westfield Community School.
Kristen Minner, a first-grade teacher at Lake in the Hills Elementary School, said the last few months have been like a roller coaster.
"It has been really difficult because the kids have been really upset," said Minner, who has taught in the district for six years. "That has been the hardest part, their reaction."
In March, the school board approved $3.1 million in program and teacher reductions, which included laying off 363 teachers and administrators. The reduction in force, district leaders said, was needed to implement a reorganization of the district's secondary schools if about $5 million in savings, including about $4 million from the union, was not achieved.
The union ultimately agreed to about $3.5 million in concessions, Williamson said.
Last year the district trimmed $9.3 million from its budget, including staff positions, services, supplies, salaries and benefits.
Recalls: No secondary school reorganization in the fall