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Teachers contract approved in St. Charles

ST. CHARLES – Four months of negotiations ended Monday night when the St. Charles school board approved a three-year contract with the teachers union.

The St. Charles Education Association approved the agreement last week.

During a special meeting, board President Steve Spurling described the contract as “very fair,” “competitive” and “good for everybody.”

The contract, which takes effect in August and runs through the 2015-16 school year, includes an average 2.8 percent pay increase each year. Teachers have taken a pay freeze since 2011.

The teachers also agreed to a reduction to 4 percent from the current level of 6 percent in the annual increase for teachers who have announced their retirement, according to a news release issued by the district after the vote.

Board member Corinne Pierog said that as a taxpayer, she appreciates the teachers taking such a reduction.

Member Judith McConnell didn’t think the retirement benefits were lowered enough. That, she said, is one reason why she voted against the contract.

Hers was the only dissenting vote, although Nick Manheim abstained. He did so because his wife teaches in the district, he said.

During public comment, Pam Turriff, president of the St. Charles Education Association, thanked the board for bargaining with the union in good faith.

She acknowledged it can be a very difficult time, but the interest-based bargaining strategy let the teachers present the issues and the stories behind their requests.

“We place a high value on the ability of the SCEA and the board of education to work together in a respectful and professional manner to meet the needs of our students,” Turriff said in the news release. “It is this type of partnership that keeps our community strong.”

St. Charles School District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann, who was not involved in the bargaining sessions, said it is heartening to see the school board and teachers come together and continue in a positive manner, especially after the strike in Chicago last year.

Locally, the Geneva Education Association was on the verge of striking last fall. Teachers began the school year without a new contract in place. The union sought mediation, then declared an impasse, took a strike authorization vote and then voted to strike for the first time in the district’s history.

A walkout was averted by a last-minute settlement of a three-year contract.

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