By Terry Dean
Teacher contract talks at Oak Park elementary school District 97 will enter their eighth month, with the next bargaining session between administration, board and faculty union set for next Monday, Aug. 4.
Negotiations began in January, with all three sides meeting in closed talks throughout the spring. The most recent 5-year contract — signed in 2008 but extended in 2011 for an additional year — expired June 30. The district announced late last spring that talks would likely extend into June. Another bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 18, says D97 spokesperson Chris Jasculca.
With talks continuing into August, the prospect appears likely of a deal being reached around the time students and faculty return for the upcoming school year. The district's roughly 480 faculty would have to vote on any deal for its ratification.
Teachers are expected back early to mid August. The first day of school is Aug. 25.
The '08 contract was reach in April of that year. The 5-year agreement was the longest ever reached by the district. Provisions included a roughly 5-percent increase for the first year, a 3.1-percent increase in the second, and a 2.5- to 4-percent increase the last three years, based on CPI (Consumer Price Index). The previous collective bargaining agreement was for three years. The 2011 extension coincided with a one-year pay freeze faculty accepted that year
Prior to recent negotiations, D97 administrators and board have expressed a willingness to consider alternatives to the traditional "steps" and "lanes" compensation models. Steps award pay increases based on time spent teaching in a district, while lanes award increases based on additional academic hours earned.
Fellow local school districts 90 and 200 have already signed new teacher pacts this summer. D90 in RiverForest reached a three-year agreement with its faculty in June, which includes a 2-percent raise in year two.
In May, D200 administration and board reached a 4-year agreement with its faculty; the board also agreed to a contract extension for its superintendent, Steven Isoye. Both deals were reached prior to June 1, which marked the start of state pension reforms.
Steps and lanes were preserved with D200 teachers. The contract also calls for 1-percent base pay raises in each of the first two years, while pay hikes in the final two years are pegged at one-half of CPI.