It took less than two minutes for the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education to unanimously approve a new four-year contract last Wednesday night with the Macoupin County Federation of Teachers Local 528, the union representing certificated staff working in all three CUSD 7 attendance centers. The new contract, retroactive to Sept. 1, calls for substantially lower wage increases than the previous four-year contract that concluded at the end of August.
The board met in executive session for nearly 50 minutes to review the contract before returning to open session and moving quickly to approve the document with no further discussion in public. Board member Bill Carter moved to accept the contract with a second by Don Dobrino. Board President Mark Hayes and members Dennis Tiburzi, Weye Schmidt, Carter and Dobrino all voted in favor of the measure. Jenni Alepra and Peyton Bernot were absent.
Before going into executive session, Carter told the board Bernot had contacted him to say he would not be able to attend due to a prior commitment in Chicago.
“He really wanted to be here to support the board and the union,” Carter said.
The new contract, retroactive to Sept. 1, calls for substantially lower wage increases than the previous four-year contract that concluded at the end of August.
The new contract, according to Supt. Joe Tieman and Local 529 President Michelle Smith, calls for wage increases of one percent over the base salary for the first three years with an increase of 1.25 percent in the final year. Tieman said the contract also calls for an increase averaging about 1.95 percent for each of the “steps,” the base salary for teachers linked to longevity in the district. The contract also calls for the district to cover $575 plus 50 percent of any premium above $575. This year employees will pay $15.44 per month for healthcare insurance.
Smith said the raises the union agreed to are “significantly less” than what the previous contract ensured. With increases in the base salaries, or steps, plus the one percent annual increase, this year’s total annual increase amounts to about three percent compared with the five percent annual increases teachers received the previous four years. Smith said the union agreed to less substantial wage increases in view of the school district’s financial condition.
“We wanted a contract that was fair to us but also fair to the community,” she said. Both Smith and Illinois Federation of Teachers Field Representative Lee Wilson said they are optimistic that the next contract will be more lucrative for local teachers because of influxes of cash resulting from the passage of a county-wide school facilities sales tax last year and the passage of school funding reforms at the state level this year. “Our teachers were among the people who worked very hard for the school facilities tax last year,” she noted.
We wanted a contract that was fair to us but also fair to the community.
ITF Local 528 members ratified the contract last Tuesday. ITF Field Representative Wilson declined to disclose the breakdown of the vote or the number of teachers voting. Local 528 has about 75 members in total, according to Smith.
ITF Local 528 presented the board with its notice of an intent to negotiate at the end of May. Local 528 negotiators met with negotiators from the Board of Education for the first time on July 5 and reached a tentative agreement about two weeks ago.
After the vote Wednesday night, Supt. Tieman thanked the board and union negotiators and singled out Wilson for recognition.
“He was a pleasure to work with,” Tieman said of Wilson. “I think he was very fair. We had a lot of late nights and we didn’t always agree but at the end of the day I think everyone was very professional.”
Speaking with the BenGil Post after the meeting, Tieman complimented the union for reaching an agreement that was in the best interest of both its members and the school district.
Tieman complimented the union for reaching an agreement that was in the best interest of both its members and the school district.
“We felt the union was very cooperative in working with us and recognizing that the economic climate in the district is not what it was four years ago,” he said. “In the end, we felt it was a team effort.”
Non-certificated staff, which includes custodians, bus drivers, and food service workers, will be covered under a separate contract that is still being negotiated. Tieman said he expects the board to take action on the non-certificated staff contract at the next regular meeting of the board on Oct. 23.
An earlier version of this story stated the new contract called for teachers to cover $575 of health insurance costs, plus one-half of the difference in premium. That sentence has been revised to reverse the obligation to the district after clarification from Macoupin County Federation of Teachers Local 528 President Michelle Smith. The district will cover $575 plus 50 percent of any premium above $575. This year employees will pay $15.44 per month for healthcare insurance.