McHENRY – Unanimous approval of a teacher contract by the McHenry Community High School District 156 Board was given in a nearly empty board room – a starkly different atmosphere than that of a recent board meeting that filled a high school auditorium.
Monday’s 7-0 vote marked the official end of the extended and at-times tense contract negotiation process that brought on the district’s first strike in 30 years.
Two weeks before, during the strike, teachers were walking on their picket lines, students were describing missed activities, and more than 400 people attended a school board meeting where many spoke on behalf of either the school board or the roughly 150-member McHenry Community High School Educator’s Association.
Students missed seven days of school after the strike began Oct. 1.
“We just look forward to business as usual,” said Gary Kinshofer, a lead negotiator for the board. “It’s good to have the kids back, the teachers back and it’s good to be working toward the same goals.”
Approved was a three-year contract, ratified by the association Oct. 12 and effective retroactively from Aug. 16 to Aug. 15, 2018.
The new agreement gives teachers average yearly step increases – raises based on years of service – of 3.6 percent for two years, but no increase to the base salary.
After two years, the current salary structure will expire and teachers in the third year of the contract will receive a dollar amount raise, equal to a half step, or about 1.8 percent.
During the third year, “We have agreed to form a committee from the association, the board, and an independent resource, with knowledge of different pay structures, to collaboratively work to establish the new way the association will be paid,” according to the contract summary on the district website.
Throughout the months of negotiations, the salary structure was a particular point of contention, the school board calling it financially unsustainable in the long term and the union saying it was a major selling point for future employees.
Calls to union spokeswoman Heidie Dunn had not been returned by press deadline Monday.
Further details of the agreement, such as shared insurance increase contributions and longevity increase rates, are available on the district website.
This year’s calendar has been revised after the district took the seven missed school days into account. A final version of the revised calendar will be released early next week, according to the website, but it was announced that Thursday and Friday will be full days of school. Initially, students were going to have those days off school for institute days.
Superintendent Mike Roberts said students also will have school Nov. 25, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which normally they would have off.
That leaves four days to be made up, which Roberts said will in fact be made up and will be announced once confirmed.