The dialogue between the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 Board of Education and the Oak Park Teachers’ Association about a new union contract has been “positive and productive,” according to a joint statement released by the two entities on March 13.
The board and OPTA have been talking since December, when the groups participated in joint training on bargaining from a federally certified mediator.
According to the statement, teams from the two sides met 10 times between January and March 13 to work on developing the new contract.
“In addition to these sessions, subcommittees composed of teachers, board members and administrators have met to draft contract language that is based on the consensus of the teams,” the statement read. “This language is then presented to the whole group for review, discussion and finalization.”
As part of the negotiating process, the teams both worked on a list of “economic and non-economic issues to be bargained,” which included evaluations, leaves, school day length, salary and benefits and planning time, among other issues.
The statement explained that the negotiations will continue through weekly sessions, “with the goal of finalizing a new contract in May that rewards the dedication and hard work of our teachers, aligns with the district’s commitment to fiscal stewardship, and will benefit our students, our schools and the village of Oak Park.”
The negotiations are the first since District 97 and the OPTA reached a contract agreement in 2015, one that both sides at the time called “transformative.”
The 2015 contract featured a compressed salary schedule comprising a system for measuring teacher effectiveness and replaced the traditional system of 25 steps and eight lanes of the previous contract, which has been common in public education.