Huntley School District 158 teachers union, board finalize 2-year contract

HUNTLEY – The Huntley Education Association and the Huntley Community School District 158 Board have finalized a two-year contract, the district announced this week.

The contract, approved by the board Wednesday, meets priorities of both parties, “increasing teacher compensation to remain competitive with area districts while maintaining fiscal responsibility to taxpayers,” according to the district news release.

“This contract allows us to recognize our high-quality teachers while continuing to provide a great value to our community,” board President Don Drzal said. “We’ll be able to continue moving forward with all of the innovative programs we offer to students, and I’m also confident in our roles as trustees of the public that this is a fiscally responsible contract for our community members.”

The release said increasing starting teacher salaries was a top priority for both parties.

Under the new agreement, teachers will receive an average raise of 4.09 percent for certified staff in the first year and a 3.4 percent average raise in year two. The board also agreed to increase its share of rising employee health care costs, a high-priority issue for union members throughout the negotiation process.

“The HEA is pleased to have a contract that reflects growth and adjustments in areas that were important to our members,” HEA co-President Bradley Aney said. “We look forward to continuing to work as a team with district administration and the board of education to offer the best education for the children of the district.”

The base salary increases will be retroactive to July 1. The length of the contract was agreed upon to allow flexibility given continued uncertainty about future state funding, the release said.

The HEA, with more than 650 members, called for a federal mediator in June; the two parties were unable to come to an agreement after nine negotiation sessions.

It wasn’t the first time the two sides had trouble seeing eye to eye.

In 2008, teachers went on strike for three days before a final contract was clinched. The HEA gave authority to strike again in 2012, but an agreement was reached before it got to that point. Students returned this year at the end of August, when school was scheduled to begin.

The previous three-year contract called for all but the most veteran teachers to get 3.5 percent annual raises based on classroom experience, and longtime teachers received 2 percent annual raises.

District 158 has established itself as one of the top-performing districts in the area while keeping one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates among K-12 districts in the state, officials said.

“The high level of achievement we have reached is due largely to the high quality of our staff,” Superintendent John Burkey said. “Our staff have proven themselves to be at the forefront of their profession, and we need to recognize that in our collective bargaining agreement.”

The district’s eight schools serve about 9,600 students.

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