Dist. 204 teacher contract addresses class size -- by committee

Updated 11/17/2015 2:46 PM

Class sizes and raises for longtime educators were among the biggest concerns for teachers in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 before they reached a three-year contract agreement with the district.

Compensation for veteran teachers was addressed in the pact approved by the union on Friday and the school board on Monday, providing those with at least 24 years experience in the district with annual noncompounding bonuses of $1,000, $1,250 or $1,500 depending on their length of service.


But the issue of class sizes wasn't settled -- at least not directly.

The contract calls for creation of a committee of up to 10 teachers and 10 administrators that will review class size data and make recommendations.

"We're all aware of class size concerns," said Doug Eccarius, assistant superintendent of human resources. "(The committee) brings administrators and teachers together to really look at more ways to problem-solve the concerns."

Teachers, parents and students have voiced class size concerns since the previous contract expired June 30 between the district and the Indian Prairie Education Association, which represents more than 2,000 teachers.

According to report card data from the 2014-15 school year, eight elementary and middle schools in District 204 have at least one grade with average class sizes larger than 30. And Neuqua, Metea and Waubonsie Valley high schools have the largest high school class sizes in the Daily Herald's coverage area, at 27.7, 26.9 and 26.6 students, respectively.

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"We were not able to address that sufficiently during negotiations," union President Paul Gamboa said.

But he retains a positive outlook for future collaboration to improve learning conditions for students and working conditions for teachers.

"While we weren't able to address every issue in the contract, we really were able to flush out a lot of things that we can work on together," Gamboa said. "Although this was prolonged -- it was difficult for both sides -- I think that we had some really good conversations."

The new contract represents the first time teachers who retire will not receive district health insurance after they stop working, Eccarius said.

However, teachers who give notice of retirement still will be eligible for raises totaling 6 percent in each of their last three years. Eccarius said the end-of-career pay boosts will remain unless the state shifts pension costs onto the district or changes school funding.

If changes are enacted, the district can reopen the contract and, if necessary, void it. Gamboa said the union also has the option to open the deal before it is set to expire after the 2017-18 school year.


"Both sides want to do everything they can to not reopen the contract," Gamboa said.

Retroactive to Sept. 15 -- the first pay date under the new contract -- the district will spend 3.9 percent more on teacher salaries in the deal's first year, 2.55 percent more in its second year and 2.46 percent more in the third.

For teachers, that means they will progress each year on a 23-step schedule that rewards experience in the district. They also will receive a $100 raise on their base salary the first year and $250 base raises the second and third years. Stipends for coaching or advising sports or clubs are increasing slightly for the first time in at least three years, Eccarius said.

Teachers will have to pay higher deductibles for health insurance, as well as higher prescription copays and a new emergency room co-pay. New hires will be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan.

The contract was approved after two previous pacts failed to gain approval from the teachers union. This time, 69 percent of teachers voted to ratify the deal. Past proposals were shot down first by 85 percent of teachers in May, then by 57 percent in September.

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