Addison teachers, school board reach contract agreement
Teachers in Addison Elementary District 4 reached a tentative contract agreement with the school board Wednesday, a sudden turnaround that averts a strike.
Bargaining teams met on and off throughout the day, at first for what began as an informal discussion, Superintendent John Langton said. But the talks apparently yielded enough progress to come to an agreement and break the stalemate.
Teachers union co-President Bob Wojtas and Jim Towns, the school board's chief negotiator, released a joint statement Wednesday night announcing the breakthrough.
"Today the Addison Teachers' Association and the Addison District 4 School District Board of Education met in an attempt to avert a strike," their statement read. "We are pleased to announce during that meeting we were able to reach a tentative agreement. We believe this new contract will put our students first. No details of the contract will be released until both sides vote to ratify the agreement."
The school board had declared an impasse in negotiations with the union that represents 327 teachers, speech pathologists, media specialists, social workers and psychologists.
Earlier this month, the union overwhelmingly voted to authorize a work stoppage and filed an intent to strike notice that allowed teachers to walk out of classrooms as early as Thursday.
But earlier Wednesday, teachers said they wouldn't go on strike Thursday.
"We remain committed to reaching a fair contract. We do not want to go on strike, but all possibilities remain on the table until an agreement is reached. We are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for our students," Wojtas said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
The turnaround also comes after several hundred teachers and their supporters rallied Tuesday night to put pressure on the school board to return to the bargaining table. Before Wednesday, the two sides hadn't held a negotiation session since Oct. 7.
Contract talks began in February, but salaries, health insurance costs and retirement incentives remained key sticking points. Teachers said they were pushing for better wages and benefits to address turnover and disparities between what they earn and the salaries of educators in nearby districts.
The school board's last offer called for a five-year contract with annual raises of 3%. Based on its proposal posted on the state's Educational Labor Relations Board website, the union sought raises of 5.25% for this school year, followed by annual increases of 5%, 4.75%, 4.25% and 4.25%.
The union also has criticized the district for its roughly $47 million budget surplus. But Langton has said the district has set aside $35 million to repair and renovate its schools over the next five years. Most of those buildings date to the 1970s or earlier.
The fund balance, Langton said, will allow the district to make those improvements without asking taxpayers for more money.
Langton has said District 4's retention rate -- 84.2% -- is comparable to that of surrounding elementary districts. The district also points to Illinois School Report Card data that shows the average teacher retention rate in the state is 85.2%.