The New Trier School Board, by a 6-1 vote, today approved a two-year contract with its teachers that raises their salaries an average 3.5 percent each year, and adds one school day per year. The teachers union reportedly ratified the contract earlier today.
The increase is composed of a base salary increase of 0.65 percent and an average step increase of 2.3 percent in the first year. The teachers will be paid for the extra instruction day, which equals 0.55 percent of their salary. The three factors combined equal 3.5 percent.
The second year of the contract, the teachers’ base salary increases 0.75 percent, the step increase will average 2.2 percent, and teachers will be paid an additional 0.55 percent for the second added day of instruction, for a total of 3.5 percent.
School Board member Alan Dolinko, who was a member of the negotiating team, said the agreement “stayed true to both . . . objectives” the community set for the School Board.
A community survey last spring said district residents’ top priorities were “to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers,” and “to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” Dolinko said. With those somewhat competing directives, the negotiations “this time around” had to be very different than those that preceded the signing of earlier contracts.
The raises are the “most modest” New Trier teachers have had in at least 20 years, Dolinko said. The agreement recognizes “we are faced with very uncertain and unprecedented economic times . . . and honors the financial concerns” of the community.
“We are on sound financial footing with this settlement,” Dolinko said.
The School Board hoped for a longer agreement, but union officials would only agree to a two-year term, in hopes the economy will improve, School Board President John Myefski said.
School Board member Lori Goldstein, who works as an employment lawyer, said, “a good negotiation is where no one gets everything they want.” In her view, the contract between New Trier Township District 203 and the New Trier Township Education Association is “fair and reasonable.”
Patrick O’Donoghue was the lone member of the School Board to vote against the agreement because salary increases were not limited to the consumer price index.
The district’s ability to raise revenue is based on property taxes, O’Donoghue said, “and that number is based on the C.P.I.” If the staff’s raises exceed the index, “it has to come out of the rest of the budget,” O’Donoghue said.
“Nothing personal” against the teachers, he said, but he does not believe larger salaries are needed to attract excellent teachers to New Trier.
“New Trier is a great place to work,” O’Donoghue said. “Almost 140 people (have reached the top of their salary schedule) and they don’t seem to be jumping off the ship.”
The teachers’ salary schedule gives them an automatic pay increase each year they work, before the raise set by their contract is applied. For teachers with a bachelor’s degree, the step pay hikes stop after nine years. For teachers with a master’s degree or advanced certification, the step increases stop after 20 years.
School Board member Carol Ducommun said the “inherent simplicity” of linking teachers’ raises to the consumer price index is “really hard” to do in a district like New Trier.
In years when the index was very low, “our most senior teachers would have to take losses” in their income, Ducommun said.
“Step increases are an important way of recognizing the expertise teachers gain from year to year,” and the students benefit from that expertise, Ducommun said.
Several board members stressed the value of extending the school year from 180 days to 182 by the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
Americans hear how students in many other countries outperform them because their school year and school day is longer, Board member Peter Fischer said. “This is a modest start in the right direction.” The two extra days “will be real instructional days,” Fischer said.
The extra day this school year will be June 8.
The contract will be posted on the school district website in the future, district officials said.