Teachers ratify contract in close vote : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Teachers ratify contract in close vote |
|Three-year agreement passes by 99 votes out of 989 cast |
|by Lyle R. Rolfe|
The more than 1,000 full-time certified teachers in the Oswego School District are now working under a new three-year contract.
Members of the Oswego Education Association (OEA), the school district's teachers' union, voted to approve the contract Friday.
Approval came in split vote with 544 teachers casting yes votes and 445 casting no votes, according to information provided by OEA President Darla Medernach and Vice President Andrew Gothelf.
The school district board voted 6-0 Jan. 14 to approve the contract.
Board President Bill Walsh abstained from voting. Walsh said he chose to abstain because his wife is a teacher in the district.
Medernach said the OEA member vote was closer than expected and could have gone either way.
She said the pay steps included in the contract were a chief concern for teachers.
Medernach said the economy also had some affect on the way teachers voted.
"The important thing is that almost everyone turned out to vote," she added.
"The board and administration are happy that the contract has been approved by both entities and we are now focused on moving forward, improving student success in all facets of their educational experience," Walsh said.
Walsh confirmed there will be additional costs for the new contract but the exact amount was not yet available from the district finance office, he said. However, he said funds have been included in this year's 2012-13 budget to cover the additional expense.
Because of state and federal funding inconsistencies for education, funding for the second and third years of the contract is a concern, Walsh noted, adding that this is the case for all district programs and contractual obligations.
He said there were no changes to the contribution percentages that the teachers currently pay for medical and health, dental or vision insurance or their pension contributions. All teachers are covered by the state's Teachers Retirement System (TRS).
The district and teachers each contribute 9.4 percent toward their retirement pension through TRS. The board contributes .084 percent of the cost to TRS for teacher's health insurance during the life of the contract.
The teacher's health benefits are the same as the past contracts.
All certified professional teachers and their immediate dependents are covered under a comprehensive health/hospitalization, dental insurance and vision program. However, participation is voluntary, Walsh said.
For a single person, the district pays 80 percent of the health insurance and the employee pays 20 percent. The district pays 100 percent of the cost for the single person's dental and vision insurance cost.
For a family, which includes the employee, spouse and children, the district pays 75 percent of the premium and the employee pays the remaining 25 percent.
The district pays 75 percent of the premium cost for dental for the family, and pays 100 percent of the vision cost for the family.
OEA official: Salary
increases will vary
For the 2011-12 school year, the starting salary for a teacher at Step 1 with a bachelor's degree, was $40,000. This salary is the TRS Creditable Annual Earnings or their base plus their $3,760 TRS allotment.
Under the new contract for this year, 2012-13, the beginning teacher will start at $40,200 or 0.5 percent more than the previous year.
Medernach said many teachers will see a substantial salary increase over the life of the contract.
"But there's going to be many, many that because of where they are on the salary schedule who might not see the same type of increases. We're not all getting the same and they're wondering if it's fair to everyone," she said.
All increases are retroactive back to the start of the school year.
Medernach said the OEA tried to get new language in the contract about elementary class sizes but were unsuccessful.
She said they were asking for 22 to 25 students in classes Kindergarten to second grade; 27 to 28 students for grades three and four; and 28 to 29 students for fifth grade.
"Right now we're dealing with third and fourth grade classes of 34 and 35 students-way out of whack. In theory, the board knows the class limits are too high for the grade levels, but for them to put something in writing, they chose not to at this time," Medernach said.
At the high school level, she said the district switched the block schedule to the Flex 8 schedule this year. Under this schedule the students have contact with teachers in six classes each day, she said.
At the freshman level, these students would be divided into groups and assigned to a specific teacher for a class period the full year.
"I'm sure the Teaching and Learning Citizens Advisory Committee will also look at this," she added.
Some changes will be made in the teacher evaluation language contained in the contract. Within the next couple of years, student performance will become part of the evaluation process, she said.
Three categories of grading are being changed to four, ranging from excellent to unsatisfactory. These changes were mandated by the state two years ago, she noted.
Medernach said the teachers also tried to get changes made in their sick days and how they are accumulated. The union wanted the number increased so those not used and turned back into the state at the time of retirement would allow them to retire two years early, but the board would not buy into it.
"They thought it looked too lucrative for the teachers to have so many sick days," she said.
Pensions were not even mentioned, she said, noting that this may be because the state lawmakers have been considering having local districts take over paying pension costs now covered by the state. The state also could require teachers to work until age 60 for full retirement benefits rather than age 56 or 57, she said.
Medernach said they began negotiating in January of last year and finished in January of this year. She said it was the toughest contract she worked on during her eight years as a negotiator.