Crystal Lake D-155, teacher union reach tentative deal

CRYSTAL LAKE – District 155 and its teacher union reached a tentative, three-year agreement Friday evening after nearly 10 months of negotiations that stalled earlier this fall over salary and benefit differences.

Neither side would disclose the details of the tentative deal, but both administrators and union officials expect the agreement to be approved in the coming weeks.

The District 155 Education Association should vote Jan. 17 on the contract, with the District Board expected to vote Jan. 21, according to a joint statement from the district and its teacher union.

“This tentative agreement will allow us to recognize our excellent teaching staff,” Superintendent Johnnie Thomas said in the statement. “Though these negotiations were lengthy, neither side ever lost focus on the end-goal of serving our students and community.”

Both sides submitted final contract offers to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in early November after formally declaring an impasse in negotiations that began in late March.

Concerned with proposed contract cuts, an overwhelming majority of the District 155 Education Association's 440 members authorized the intent to strike before the impasse. The Crystal Lake teachers' union had never before held a strike vote in its 40-year history.

On Friday, Justin Hubly, District 155 Education Association president, said the tentative contract will allow the high school-only district to meet the needs of students and the community.

“This tentative contract represents the tireless efforts of so many teachers and administrators, and is fair for all the stakeholders we serve," Hubly said in the statement.

The final offers forwarded to the state board showed that the two sides disagreed over salaries, teacher retirement benefits and work loads.

The union proposed an increase to the base salary in year three of the proposed three-year contract, while the district offered lump sum increases to teachers at the top of the experience scale, according to documents posted to the two entities’ websites in November.

The board’s offer also shifted an increasing portion of employee contributions to the Teacher Retirement System to the employees.

Although the details unknown, a tentative deal will likely cost the district. T. Ferrier, assistant finance superintendent, said earlier this fall that District 155 would spend an additional $500,000 for every 1 percent increase to teacher salary and benefits.

The average teacher salary in District 155 is $94,866, but that number includes department chairs, which are not calculated in average teacher salaries for most districts. That reporting change will be made in District 155 sometime in 2014.

If approved, the tentative contract would retroactively start on July 1, 2013, and expire on June 30, 2016. Terms of the agreement will be released once both sides approve the agreement, district officials said.

• Jeff Engelhardt contributed to this report.

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