Dist. 76 teachers agree to new deal

Teachers in Diamond Lake District 76 have authorized a new five-year contract that includes pay increases designed to retain current teachers and attract new ones.

The approximately 100-member Diamond Lake Council of the Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504 this week ratified the proposed pact "with a healthy majority," according to union President Christine Berrong, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at West Oak Middle School.

The school board also has given its informal OK. Official approval is expected Sept. 24.

Generally, the contract calls for increases of 3.25%, 3.25%, 4.75%, 4%, and 4%, in respective years. According to the 2018 Illinois School Report Card, District 76 teachers made an average $59,550, which is below the state average $65,721.

The bigger bump for the 2021-22 school year is possible due to expected retirements.

"I think this contract will allow the district to retain teachers and hire more good talent going forward," Berrong said.

"Both parties are committed to the long-term success of the district," added Superintendent Bhavna Sharma Lewis, who joined Berrong on a call to discuss the pact.

Both said the negotiation was collaborative. The current contract, approved in late 2016, expired at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Teachers worked without a contract during the year and a half of negotiations, which required the assistance of a federal mediator.

Berrong agreed the five-year term and other aspects illustrate a healthy partnership and confidence in the district's direction.

The last negotiation required review of other issues, such as the teacher evaluation process, before salary increases were brought to the table.

"During the negotiation of the last contract, essentially our whole administrative team changed," said board President Joy Hail. "We feel confident the teachers will see this as a vote of confidence in them and a salary to match."

The timing of the new contract coincides with other initiatives in the Mundelein-based K-8 district that have included a voter-approved $11.4 million overhaul of school buildings. About $5.5 million in projects were done this summer in the third and final year for the building program.

A new school configuration - which combines three schools in two buildings - debuted Sept. 5.

Fairhaven School, which housed pre-kindergarten through first-graders, was closed. West Oak was divided into two schools in the same building: West Oak Intermediate (third through fifth grade) and West Oak Middle School (sixth through eighth grade). Pre-K through second-grade students attend Diamond Lake School.

"We really, I don't think, could have had a better start to the school year," Hail said.

Students work on laptops as a new school year is underway in Diamond Lake School District 76. The district teachers have approved a new contract calling for raises this year and in four subsequent years. Courtesy of Diamond Lake District 76
Diamond Lake School District 76 students work on a project in class. Courtesy of Diamond Lake District 76
Diamond Lake School District 76 students read during class. Courtesy of Diamond Lake District 76
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