Crystal Lake District 47 school board approves union contract for support staff

CRYSTAL LAKE – Longtime support staff of Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 could be eligible for new loyalty bonuses under the union contract approved by the school board this week.

The one-time bonuses, which will recognize those who have been with the district for 10, 15 and 20 years, represent one of the new components of the three-year agreement between the district and the Crystal Lake Association of Support Staff. It was approved in a 7-0 vote Tuesday.

The unions is made up of school employees who are generally referred to as “para-professionals,” according to a statement sent by district Community Relations Coordinator Denise Barr.

The roughly 225 support staff members are licensed by the state of Illinois to provide classroom assistance for special needs students, it added. While the new contract will cover all 225 staffers, CLASS co-President Amy Taldone wrote in an email about 200 are included in the bargaining unit.

“We have a great working relationship with the administration and board of education, and coming up with an agreement is always a give and take process,” Taldone said in an email about the negotiating process.

Staff will receive a 40-cent pay increase in the first year of the contract and Consumer Price Index raises the following two years, said District 47 board President Jeff Mason, who negotiated the new agreement with board member Ryan Farrell.

The CPI increase in year two will fall between 1 percent and 3 percent, according to the contract. Year three’s increase will fall between 1.5 percent and 3 percent.

Mason said the board met the union’s request in the first year increases, and for the next two years it was about coming to an agreement.

“It was coming to an agreement as to whether it was going to be a set dollar amount or whether it was going to be a range,” Mason said. “We ultimately decided the range was a more equitable way.”

The average wage of a CLASS employee will see a year over increase from $14.50 to $14.90, he added.

Bilingual support will receive an extra $1 an hour, another new contract feature, and the parties also agreed to allow CLASS employees access to group term life insurance and participation in a flexible spending account for health and child care expenses, according to the district’s news release.

“Our paraprofessionals provide critical classroom support throughout the district,” Mason said in the release, commending CLASS co-presidents Taldone and Renee Wolke for coming to terms early in the school year. “We always prefer to have contract terms settled to avoid uncertainty, allowing everyone [to] remain focused on educating and caring for our children.”

The two sides started negotiations in the spring, took time off during the summer months, and continued in August. After CLASS ratification last week and Tuesday’s board approval, the agreement will be effective retroactively from the start of the current school year through the 2017-2018 year.

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