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School District 156 Board approves contract with teachers

Teachers still voting on two-year deal

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 10:27 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 11:42 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – After nine months of negotiations that nearly resulted in a strike, the School District 156 Board on Monday approved a proposed two-year teachers contract on a 5-0 vote.

The details of the contract also were presented to members of the McHenry High School Teachers Association Monday, but voting will continue through the day Wednesday, said union spokesman Brian Weidner.

The details of the contract won't be available until both sides approve the deal, Superintendent Mike Roberts said.

Over the last several months, the public comment section of the school board's meetings have been filled with people remarking on the negotiations, some arguing that teachers need to accept a "new normal" in terms of pay and benefits and others saying the teachers deserve more.

But only Weidner spoke Monday evening.

He asked the board to put the last few months of sometimes contentious negotiation behind them, adding the union was "just as much the aggressor" in the talks.

Neither side has discussed the contents of the contract publicly, but up until a tentative agreement was reached Thursday evening, the impasse has largely centered on whether teachers should contribute more to family insurance plans, both sides have said.

Teachers shouldn't have to take a step backward in terms of contributions because the district's finances are improving, Weidner has said. This is a stance union officials say they feel particularly strong about because teachers gave significant concessions during the last round of negotiations when the district's finances were much more precarious.

The school board, on the other hand, is trying to run the district as a business and the raises the teachers received in the past are "unsustainable," board member Tim Byers, who heads the district's negotiating team, has said.

To balance out raises that Byers said are higher than what other area districts offer, the District 156 board wanted the union to agree to higher insurance contributions for family plans to even out the costs, Byers said.

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