DOWNERS GROVE – A contract that increases the base salary for teachers in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 by 7 percent over four years unanimously was approved Sept. 17 by the Board of Education.
Approval of the collective bargaining agreement came one week after it was ratified by a large majority of the members of the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association.
Approval of the contract follows several months of negotiations between the teachers union and school district.
The current collective bargaining agreement expired Aug. 21, and teachers agreed to begin the school year without a contract.
In addition to the increase in base salary, some teachers will realize additional raises based on their advancement on the salary schedule – commonly called step increases – which average 3.9 percent annually, according to a District 58 news release.
“This new contract encompasses the collaborative spirit of our valued educators and our administrative team to do what is best to improve student learning while maintaining the fiscal responsibility the community has come to expect from District 58,” board President Doug Purcell said in the release.
Board member John Miller said the contract was "in everybody's best interest."
"This was hard, and it should be hard," Miller said following the vote. "I know there's been a lot of tense moments."
Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said the contract is the result of creative and collaborative work on the part of both sides.
"It was a lot of effort and hours and hours of time," Cremascoli said.
Highlights of the new contract include:
• Increased planning time for teachers to allow them to collaborate around student learning and implementation of new district curricula
• Increased professional leave time to allow teachers to attend conferences
• Additional leave time to include family leave for mothers, fathers and adopting parents, and a sick leave bank for teachers experiencing long-term illnesses
• A shift in health insurance costs where a greater percentage of the premiums are paid by teachers while maintaining a high level of benefits.
Additionally, a new district health and wellness committee will be created to review and monitor the current status of the district’s health insurance coverage and examine possible cost containment options.
Downers Grove Elementary Education Association negotiations chairman and teacher Mark White said successful negotiations were the result of trust between the union and district.
"It's all based on trust," White said following the board meeting. "There were challenging issues, but we were able to work through them. Through our mutual trust between both of the teams, we were able to get past those issues. It took some time. It took longer than we wanted."
Association President Craig Young said negotiations were lengthy, but he never lost faith the district and union would reach an agreement.
"I'm very pleased it's done," he said. "As with any negotiation, there's always times when there's some frustration, but I always had faith that it would eventually sort out."
Young said the two sides agreed on smaller issues first to make some incremental progress.
"We started with a lot of the smaller stuff this time, so we had a lot of those little pieces figured out," he said. "But once we started nailing the big ones down, you're like, 'OK, we're getting there, we're getting close.' "
The contract includes more than 380 certified staff members, including teachers and other educational specialists.