Dist. 15 board approves contract for support staff

  • Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board members Wednesday night voted in favor of a five-year contract with support employees who went on strike for 10 days in October. These strikers were outside Winston Campus in Palatine.

      Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board members Wednesday night voted in favor of a five-year contract with support employees who went on strike for 10 days in October. These strikers were outside Winston Campus in Palatine. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Palatine Township Elementary District board members have approved a five-year contract for support employees who returned to work without a new deal after a 10-day strike early in the current academic year .

Board members Wednesday night voted 7-0 in favor of the deal that will provide 2 percent average annual raises for Educational Support Personnel Association union members. The deal will start retroactively in 2017 and run to 2022.

District 15 board President Lisa Szczupaj said she came away impressed with how both sides advocated for their positions.

"And at times that proved to be pretty challenging for any of us that were involved, as well as the community members that have been part of the experience," Szczupaj said.

All 454 secretaries, clerical employees, nurses and classroom aides in the local affiliated with the Illinois Education Association walked off their jobs Oct. 16. The 10-day strike ended after the workers were informed by district officials that a process to seek replacements was about to start.

Illinois Education Association spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan said the District 15 employees voted in favor of the agreement Feb. 15, but she declined to provide totals. The school board's ratification Wednesday was needed to make the contract official.

Along with the 2 percent annual raises that were included in a last, best offer implemented by the school board Oct. 30, the union members will have full-time status by working 5½ hours a day, or 27½ hours per week. Single-employee health insurance will be fully paid by the district.

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Up to eight support employees per year will be eligible for a $9,000 retirement bonus, with the provision ending in 2020, according to the new contract. A previous proposal would have allowed a maximum of five workers to receive the retirement cash through 2019.

Support employees had been without a contract since July 1. Negotiations on a new deal began in early 2017.

Angie Drazkowski, a classroom aide at Stuart R. Paddock Elementary School in Palatine and the support employee union president, has said the membership plans to focus on "rebuilding and reconnecting with the district."

In April 2016, another District 15 school board approved an unprecedented 10-year contract for teachers that includes average annual raises of 3.4 percent over its duration. Schools remained open during the support employees' strike, in part because the teachers' contract disallowed them from honoring the picket lines.

The strike took a twist Oct. 17 when Cook County Judge Neil Cohen issued a temporary restraining order that forced 168 "essential" nurses and special education classroom aides back to work immediately. A week later, the nurses and classroom aides returned to the picket lines after Cohen denied a motion filed by District 15 lawyers to prevent them from striking.

District 15 covers all or part of Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg.

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