The Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education and the OPRF Faculty Senate have agreed on a new four-year contract that is drastically different than any approved in the past.
The District 200 school board voted 6-0 (board member Craig Iseli was absent) to approve the contract during a special meeting on Feb. 19 — roughly a year after the two entities began negotiations.
The new contract is retroactive to July 1, 2018, when the old deal expired, and runs through June 20, 2022.
The most significant feature of the new contract is a radically altered salary structure, which eliminates the conventional step-raise and lanes system many school districts use to calculate teachers’ salary increases. The measure comes four years after District 97 eliminated its steps and lanes structure.
Under the old, conventional salary structures, OPRF teachers were given a step salary increase for each additional year of employment, in addition to a yearly percent increase in salary that was negotiated, officials said.
The old contract’s eight lanes, officials added, “provided salary increases for every 15 additional hours of graduate-level coursework.”
Under the new contract, salaries no longer automatically increase for teachers according to seniority. Faculty members now get a flat pay raise of $3,600 in each of the four years of the new contract, which replaces the “step-plus-negotiated-rate increases,” officials said. And each teacher will get a one-time $3,000 bonus, which will be paid retroactively and will not be added to teachers’ base salaries.
In addition, the new contract increases minimum salaries for each salary level by $1,000 a year “to assure the District maintains highly competitive introductory salaries” and puts a limit on how much the highest salaries for each salary level can increase each year — no more than 1 percent each year.
Officials said that the new pay structure “fairly compensates teachers while also being fiscally responsible to taxpayers,” adding that it reduces “the overall annual rate of wage scale-related salary growth from 3 percent over the past 10 years to 1.83 percent over the span of the new contract.”
According to the new contract’s salary schedule, eight lanes will be replaced by four levels in the 2021-22 school year — the last year of the contract — in order to give teachers time to earn the requisite hours they’ll need to remain at a higher pay level.
The first salary level requires a bachelor’s degree, the second level requires a master’s degree, the third level requires a master’s degree plus 30 hours of graduate work or its equivalent and the fourth level requires a master’s degree plus 60 hours of graduate work or its equivalent.
New teachers with previous public school teaching experience may get credit for no more than five years of previous teaching experience. Additional years may be credited “at the discretion of the superintendent.”
Other major features of the new contract include a 10-minute extension of the school day in order to accommodate more instructional time.
“The school day will comprise eight standard class periods, which will be 47 minutes long instead of the current 48,” officials said. “Dismissal will be at 3:11 p.m. instead of 3:04 p.m.”
The new contract also gets rid of a 30-day sick leave benefit for pregnant women “that was in addition to maternity and paternity leave that all employees are entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act.” Teachers can now use “up to 12 weeks of accumulated sick time in conjunction with” the maternity and paternity leave they’re already entitled to.
In a joint statement, D200 Board President Jackie Moore and Faculty Senate Chair Sheila Hardin said that they were “pleased to announce” the new contract agreement.
“This agreement is the product of the tireless efforts by the two negotiating teams,” they said. “Over the past 12 months, they spend dozens of hours bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement that recognizes the efforts of our excellent teaching staff while also controlling long-term costs to the district.”