District 304 board approves five-year teachers contract with raises averaging 3.92 percent
Geneva Unit District 304 teachers will receive raises averaging 3.92 percent in each of the five years of a new contract approved by the school board Friday morning.
Yearly salary increases range from 5.3 percent for newer teachers to 3.6 percent for more experienced teachers, including step and lane increases. The most experienced teachers -- more than 22 years vested -- will receive a yearly cost-of-living increase of 1.6 percent total, Geneva Education Association President Kevin Gannon said.
Teachers will receive extra compensation for completing additional education as part of the $6.1 million contract, district officials said.
The school board met in open session for six minutes at 8 a.m. and approved the contract without comment or conversation from board members or teachers union representatives. The same pact was ratified by the teachers Monday.
"I'm glad the work stoppage is over and everyone is back to work," school board President Mark Grosso said later. "The board wished the teachers would have remained at the bargaining table, but it didn't happen that way."
The district's 460 teachers went on strike Dec. 4 and kept more than 5,800 students out of classrooms for five days. Sports and other extracurricular activities were canceled during the strike.
Classes resumed Tuesday. As a result of the strike, high schools' first-semester finals will be pushed back to January.
Pay increases will be applied retroactively to the start of the school year. Teachers will make up one of the missed days by extending the calendar year through June 4. The union proposed adding more days, but the board disagreed, Gannon said.
Parent Alicia Saxton told the board she has some concerns about how the district plans to make up lost instructional time.
"My biggest concern is that my youngest daughter has an IEP (individualized education program) for speech services. An entire week of school was missed and during this time, she is allotted to have 60 minutes of speech therapy," Saxton said. "If the kids and teachers are not making up these days, I am concerned with how my daughter is going to meet her required minutes of speech that are allotted on her IEP."
The contract spells out changes to the salary schedule structure, which was a sticking point during talks as both sides wanted to use a different compensation model. Ultimately, they split the difference. For the first two years, they'll use a traditional step-and-lane model. For the remaining three years, they have adopted a novel approach favored by the district that calculates a percentage increase based on the teacher's previous year's salary and an additional flat dollar amount stipend.
The contract also includes a retirement clause adjustment to comply with new state law penalizing school districts if pay increases in the final years of a teacher's employment exceed 3 percent -- previously set at 6 percent.
Health insurance premium costs are unchanged; the district's share is 95 percent for individuals and 60 percent for families.
District 304 is bucking a trend of teachers contracts' typically running three or four years since the 2008 economic downturn.
Grosso said five years was agreeable to both sides because the length provides "additional stability" to budget for labor costs.
The full contract is expected to be posted on the district's website by month's end.
• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.