GENEVA – In a special meeting attended by few citizens, the Geneva School Distrcit 304 board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a three-year teachers contract that will phase out tuition reimbursements, end salary spiking and, with some exceptions, freeze salaries for one year.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, board President Mark Grosso encouraged the community to mend strained relationships that might have occurred during the contentious negotiations.
“We had different viewpoints, but I have no problem with people fighting for what they believe they’re entitled to,” board member Tim Moran said.
The Geneva Education Association ratified the contract Nov. 14. The approval followed 10 months of negotiations, which included the threat of a strike until a tentative agreement was reached in the 11th hour.
Union President Carol Young could not be reached by phone Tuesday night.
Board members said they sought to create a contract that was best for teachers, best for students and best for the public. They thanked the community for its support.
“Those comments gave you the strength to keep going,” board member Bill Wilson said.
The agreement, which is retroactive to August, includes a letter of understanding that establishes a joint salary schedule study group of teachers and administrators who will address the issue of future teacher compensation.
Grosso said this will give the school board an opportunity to work with the teachers to explore other salary structure options. He noted a number of school districts have moved away from the traditional salary schedule, which rewards teachers for experience and education.
The new contract outlines these salary terms:
• In 2012-13, a salary freeze is set for all teachers except those who qualify for lane advancement based on approved, completed graduate coursework and those who have submitted retirement notice.
Grosso thanked the teachers for taking the freeze – a sacrifice all other employees have taken, he said.
• Aside from some exceptions, teachers will receive a 2.65 percent salary increase in 2013-14 and a 2.85 percent increase in 2014-15. In both years, teachers who have reached the schedule’s highest longevity step will get a $1,000 increase instead of their former increase of 1.5 percent.
• In 2014-15, the beginning teacher salary will increase from $39,651 to $39,730.
The parties also agreed to phase out tuition reimbursement, Grosso said. He explained the union preferred to spend the district’s finite amount of money in a way that will affect the most teachers.
Salary spiking – end-of-career salary increases – also ends with this contract. Grosso said the practice encouraged qualifying teachers to retire, and the district realized savings by replacing them with lower-paid teachers.
Teachers intending to retire by the end of the 2014-15 year will receive these raises:
• Six percent this year, 3 percent next year and 2.48 percent in 2014-15 for those submitting notice by Jan. 15, 2013.
• Six percent next year and 3 percent in 2014-15 for those submitting notice by Aug. 15, 2013.
• Six percent in 2014-15 for those submitting notice by Aug. 15, 2014.
A summary of the ratified contract is available on the district’s website, www.geneva304.org. The entire agreement will be posted on the website by the end of November.