District 70, teachers agree to 5-year contract
Teachers in Libertyville Elementary District 70 have a new 5-year contract that both sides say is fiscally responsible and competitive.
The agreement covering 198 full-time teachers was forged in recent weeks via a new "interest based" bargaining process using a facilitator well before the current contract expires Aug. 25.
"We weren't at an impasse," said board President Tom Vickers.
Teachers represented by the Libertyville Education Association ratified the agreement April 6 and the school board approved it 6-0-1 Monday. Board member Marc Grote, whose wife is a kindergarten teacher in the district, abstained.
Annual salary increases average about 2.3 percent. Other changes, such as removing limits on job sharing opportunities and allowing credit for more online courses, are considered minor.
"We've reached a good, sustainable, competitive contract," Vickers said Tuesday.
Union President Cheryl Crenshaw praised the process and said teachers were "satisfied to reach a fair concession" with all parties.
"The end result was a compromise that allowed for a locally competitive contract that promotes fiscal responsibility and sustainability," she said. The contract runs through Aug. 25, 2023.
Salaries vary by the number of years taught and level of education. According to the payment schedule, for example, a teacher with a master's degree and 10 years of experience will make $63,096 in the first year of the contract and $65,010 in the fifth year.
District 70 and its teachers last inked a 5-year agreement for the 2009-10 school year that was extended for three years.
"This is the first time in over eight years that we actually went through the contract from the first letter to the last letter," Vickers said. "The changes we made make the functions of the schools on a daily basis more efficient."
That includes better coordination of meetings, for example, to ease the impact on teachers and their classrooms, he said.
The new contract retains a "salary enhancement plan" that allows teachers 55 and older with 20 or more years with the district to receive 6 percent salary increases for up to four consecutive years before they retire.
Vickers said that provision is common among school districts.
"It's an effort to incentivize teachers to stay in the district," he said.
Those who meet the criteria also can get a "bonus" of 30 percent of their final year's salary to be paid over two years after they retire.
Josh Gordon, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2017, questioned the future financial impacts of the 6 percent incentive.
"There are valid arguments for and against the new contract, but either way, the (school board) has not shared the impact to our taxes when we are forced to manage the state pension obligations of our teachers," he said. "I think that was worth discussing prior to signing a long-term contract."
Vickers said the district analyzed various factors, including a property tax freeze or shift in pension obligation.