Oak Grove District 68, teachers agree to 5-year contract
The Oak Grove Elementary District 68 school board and teachers have agreed to terms for a new 5-year contract starting July 1.
Teachers previously voted in favor and school officials approved the pact at a board meeting this week, according to board President Tony Giamis.
Contract details are being finalized and the document needs to be signed but that is considered a formality.
The pact is the second consecutive 5-year agreement. About 926 students attend the single-school district in Green Oaks. There are 91 teachers at Oak Grove this school year.
Superintendent Lonny Lemon said the contract calls for annual pay increases of about 3% including salary and any steps.
Starting teachers will be making about $50,000 per year when insurance contributions are considered, Lemon said. State law requires a $40,000 minimum starting salary for educators beginning in 2023-24.
Talks as in 2013 went smoothly, according to Lemon. However, this time the Oak Grove Education Association and district jointly requested a federal mediator to lead the talks in what is known as the Affinity model.
"That's when we bring in a federal mediator at the outset," said Lemon, a longtime educator who is retiring after eight years with District 68.
Giamus said District 68 chose that route after learning of its success in Libertyville Elementary District 70, which inked a 5-year contract with teachers in 2018.
"It was fantastic. We met four times I think and sealed the deal in nine hours total. I've had sessions that lasted nine hours," Lemon said.
The contract runs from 2020-21 through 2024-25. Lemon said the key to negotiations is not having labor issues leading up to them. "We've had a great transparent process and communication," he said. "We haven't let things fester."
The 5-year contract provides stability and allows the school board to pursue longer-term planning, Lemon said.
In recent years, the district invested $14 million in transforming the K-8 campus, which though a single building, has had several additions.
Lemon said there is about $9 million in pending maintenance work to replace roof sections and building systems that are reaching the end of their life span.
Oak Grove has been closed with a tentative reopening date of April 6.