OPRF board OK's 4-year deal with custodians

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Custodians secured their place at Oak Park and River Forest High School for the next four years after coming to agreement on a new contract last week with the District 200 Board of Education.

The board voted 7-0 to ratify the contract at its Feb. 24 regular meeting.

The deal calls for three years of 3-percent salary hikes, with a 2-percent raise in the fourth year.

Buildings and Grounds union representatives "worked very cooperatively with us to come to an agreement [well suited] for both sides," Cheryl Witham, OPRF chief financial officer, said after the meeting.

The pay scale for buildings and grounds personnel does not include step increases.

Health benefits stay as they were,
Jason Edgecombe, assistant superintendent for human resources, reported to the board.

Edgecombe said the deal will allow custodians to "maintain a favorable position" with custodian groups at the high school's peer districts, while Witham said the contract "is fully in line with the budget."

The four-year pact comes at a time when many districts are outsourcing custodial work to private firms, school officials said outside the meeting. Witham cited the Glenbard high schools, where voters turned down a referendum bid in November, will save more than $1 million annually by privatizing custodial work.

District 200 did not want to outsource because its custodians, many of whom
have been with the district many years, provide knowledgeable service to its aged buildings and an element of security in that they are known within the school. They know the kids and interact with them, Witham said.

"Those are very important things to the atmosphere here," she said.

The previous Buildings and Grounds contract expired on June 30, 2004. Ratification of the custodians' contract follows November approval of the teachers' contract. The secretaries' contract, which also expired last summer, is next on the board's docket.

Bonds sold, Moody's rating kept

The board approved the sale of $1.6 million in general obligation bonds to fund a renovation of the school's cafeterias.

Moody's confirmed the district's Aa2 bond rating, saying it "reflects the district's sizable tax base, well-managed finances with ample reserves and favorable debt profile," according to a Moody's statement.

The district ranks above District 97 and the villages of Oak Park and River Forest, all of which have Aa3 bond ratings, one step below Aa2 in Moody's ratings.

?#34;Drew Carter

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