Praise all around as U46 gives OK to teachers pact
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News June 4, 2012 10:10PM
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:36AM
ELGIN — Following a full year and 250 hours at the negotiating table, the Elgin School District U46 board Monday night approved a new three-year contract with its 2,200 teachers.
Elgin Teachers Union members had voted 1,225 to 604 for the agreement last Wednesday night, said ETA President Kathryn Castle.
The newly approved contract raises the base pay for teachers by .75 percent in the first year, said Tony Sanders, chief of staff at U46. However, some teachers will not see a pay increase this year outside of their “step and lane” increases for increased longevity in the district and added educational credit hours, Castle commented.
According to Sanders, the new contract will cost U46 $2.8 million for the current fiscal year, $3.8 million in the 2012-13 year and $4 million in the 2013-14 school year
Other highlights of the new contract include a new Transformation Task Force “working on collaboration on how we can change how the students’ and teachers’ day looks,” Sanders said.
That steering committee, including teachers and administration, must begin meeting in the next 15 days, Sanders said.
Researchers have said for many years that the current instructional days are designed for an “industrial model” where students are preparing to work in industry and manufacturing jobs, Castle said. That may no longer be the best way to teach students to be prepared to enter the adult world, she said.
Another highlight is allowing teachers more time to meet regarding student performance and teaching strategies as part of their work day, Sanders noted.
School board members praised the contract and the time and energy devoted by staff to reach an agreement.
“Thank you. Thank you so much for the time and the energies that you put into these collaborative discussions that went on … that is what takes the time that makes things go on longer,” board President Donna Smith said.
The contract addresses goals U46 wants to meet while helping administration work with teachers and working within tight budgets, Smith said.
“We really all do have the same goals. We have to figure out how to meet those in ways that are fair to everyone and within our budgets,” Smith said.
Part of why negotiations took so long were the uncertainties, on both the state and federal level, of what mandates had to be addressed in the contract, Castle said.
“This was a very hard-fought process,” said board member Maria Bidelman, but added that the contract and resulting committees show a dedication to innovation. “The teachers of U46 have always tried to stay ahead of the curve. We have been advised ... to work ahead of the curve, and this group of teachers has always done that.”
The agreement and resulting changes could make the district a leader, Bidelman said. “They are going to be looking at this a national level, to see what we are going to do with this.”