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District 300 teachers OK contract

CARPENTERSVILLE – District 300 teachers Wednesday ratified a three-year contract – the culmination of a year of negotiations dominated by clashes over class sizes and finances.

Teachers went on strike for one day earlier this month.

The district board will vote today in a special session on whether to finalize the deal.

Both sides are waiting until after the vote to disclose terms of the contract.

Teachers from Gilberts Elementary School to Jacobs High School voted throughout the day Wednesday on the agreement covering the district’s 26 schools.

A simple majority of voting members was needed to ratify it.

The union, LEAD 300, did not immediately release how many of its 1,300 members endorsed the contract.

“It’s the start of a new beginning,” LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said. “I think both groups have affirmed that education is a priority in this district.”

The union members’ vote means they can put to rest disagreements with the board about how to pay for smaller class sizes. Their differences ultimately caused district teachers, nurses and other certified staff to walk a picket line for the first time in 40 years.

Leading up to the early December strike, final offers from both sides showed that the board and teachers were off by 1 percentage point on salaries and two to three students on the maximum size of classes at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho and other union leaders staunchly advocated for smaller class sizes in a district that averages between 33 and 37 students at the elementary level.

School board members agreed on the desire to lower class sizes, but both sides struggled to find common ground on how to adequately compensate teachers and simultaneously afford smaller classes.

Board member Joe Stevens, a key district negotiator, said during the days preceding the strike that the proposals discussed would force deficit spending at the district.

Anything more than a 1 percent increase in teacher salaries would eradicate a $1 million surplus projected in this year’s $194 million budget approved in late September.

“I’m certainly hopeful” the school board will pass the contract, Stevens said Wednesday night. “I’m hoping it’s routine, but you never know.”

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