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District 300 chief ‘confident’ in fairness of contract proposal

Updated: November 26, 2012 7:20AM

CARPENTERSVILLE — Community Unit School District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy said Wednesday he is “confident” in the fairness of the latest contract proposal the District 300 board has made to its teachers union.

That proposal includes “a modest salary increase and a reduction in class sizes,” Bregy said.

The superintendent’s comments come after the district and its teachers union met for more than four hours Tuesday night, the second meeting since members of Local Educators Association of District 300 (LEAD) overwhelmingly voted to authorize their leadership to strike if necessary.

The two sides had some “good” discussions but little movement during those negotiations, according to spokesmen for both bargaining teams.

“I’d have to say in some areas we made a lot of progress. There was a little disappointment in others,” said Joe Stevens, school board member and spokesman.

For one, the school board had expected LEAD to present its counter-proposal at that meeting, according to Stevens. It needs to know the union’s position on what it has proposed so it can “really firm everything up,” he said.

The Carpentersville-based district and its teachers union have been in negotiations since November and in mediation since late July.

The union has pointed to class sizes — higher in District 300 than the average statewide or in neighboring Elgin School District U46 — as a major sticking point in those talks. Because of this, that’s where Stevens said the district bargaining team has “focused our energies.” The district agrees with teachers it would like to see those numbers come down, he added.

‘Whole raft of issues’

And that’s where LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said the two sides had some “interesting” discussion Tuesday, both presenting ideas, “What if we do this?”

But, Williamson said, “If that ends up being the only issue we end up solving, we’re right back where we started.”

“We’ve got to solve a whole raft of issues, and we don’t have a choice on that because we haven’t solved them since 2006.”

That was the last four-year contract to which District 300 and LEAD had agreed. The union then made $3.6 million in concessions on salary, benefits and insurance in a one-year contract reached in spring 2011. It “held off” last year as the district worked against legislation to extend the economic development area around the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, he said.

Additional issues have come from the move to an eight-period day at district high schools this school year and the fact that since 2006, the district has added 37 new administrative positions, Williamson said.

“I think really we’re at a place where we’re trying to make sure movement occurs, and we’re a little stuck,” he said. “I don’t want to be not hopeful about it, but I definitely don’t feel like we’re making the movement we need to make.”

Bregy said he wouldn’t argue with the union’s numbers.

Administrator posts

Some of those new administrative positions are divisional heads, who also teach, he said. Some head up schools that have opened since 2006 or the district’s new i-Learn Night Education Program. Some, such as the superintendent’s teaching and learning team, were created as Bregy took office and reorganized the central office, eliminating other administrator positions, such as the director of assessments and accountability and the director of operations.

Ten of those positions were created when 12 teachers became 10 administrators as the district restructured its special education services based on a state audit and recommendations made in spring 2011 by the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, he said. That move gives those educators more freedom to work outside contractual requirements and saves the district about $140,000, he said.

The Illinois Interactive Report Card shows the ratio of students to administrators in the district has decreased from 316.4 in 2006 to 239.8 in 2011. That’s still more students per administrator than the state average (211.3), and, Bregy said, compared to all those districts, “We’re right in the middle. It’s not extreme.”

“If the time comes to when the district is required to make their proposal public, the board and the administration feel very good about the contract proposal on the table,” he said.

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