Salary a sticking point in West Chicago Dist. 94 contract talks
A contract dispute between the West Chicago Community High School board and teachers union is stretching into October as both sides remain far apart on proposed salaries.
Bargaining teams have been unable to reach a deal after two dozen formal sessions and 11 subcommittee meetings since early April 2016.
District officials are now taking a slightly more optimistic tone after tensions ran high earlier this month. Superintendent Doug Domeracki said in an email Friday that he's not involved in the meetings but believes the talks are becoming "more focused" and progress was made during a Sept. 27 session.
The two sides will meet again Oct. 10.
School board President Gary Saake released some details of salary offers made by both sides. In a statement he read during last week's school board meeting, he also disputed claims by the West Chicago Teachers Association, the union that represents 141 district employees.
Saake said the board is offering a three-year contract with annual pay raises tied to the Consumer Price Index as opposed to fixed percentages; increases in total compensation, including salary, retirement contributions, health insurance, and other benefits; and "flexibility in the use of faculty time during the school day."
Saake said the union's latest proposal calls for a six-year contract giving teachers a nearly 30 percent average increase in compensation, including benefits, in the first year of the deal.
The union's proposal also would have the district pick up the full employee portion of their retirement contributions, double extracurricular stipend pay, and reimburse no less than 75 percent of the total tuition costs for educators pursuing their first master's degree.
"We have great respect for our staff, but this is clearly not in the realm of what the district nor taxpayers can support," Saake said in his statement. "Just as with every other school district, unit of local government, and household, we have to live within our means, and that is what this board intends to continue to do."
Union President Brad Larson did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Friday.
The association posted a lengthy statement on social media in August indicating negotiators had made "no tangible progress" and members have reached a "tipping point." The union also expressed concerns about the board's contract proposals.
"The board seems willing to run the risk of being unable to attract high-quality teachers and to accept a situation in which newly hired teachers stay in the district for only a few years -- just long enough to get the experience necessary to move on to surrounding districts with better compensation and working conditions," the statement reads.
District 94 has a 94.7 percent faculty retention rate, while the state average stands at 85.8 percent, according to Saake. He said only 17 percent of departing faculty in exit interviews cited compensation as a contributing factor.
A one-year contract extension on an original three-year pact with the union expired Aug. 13 -- three days before students began classes.
The high school serves about 2,100 students from Carol Stream, West Chicago and Winfield.