D97 approves new union contracts

Higher wages, new sick leave management coming for support professionals and teaching assistants

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

During their April 9 meeting, members of the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 Board of Education unanimously approved new collective bargaining agreements with the Oak Park Educational Support Professionals (OPESP) and the Oak Park Teacher Assistants' Association (OPTAA). Both 4-year agreements will run through the 2022-23 school year. 

The agreement with the support professionals' union features a 7-percent wage increase in the contract's first year, with 2-percent wage increases occurring in each of the subsequent three years. 

The wage increases are higher than the projected growth in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the last two years and is more competitive with market wages, D97 officials said. 

According to a joint statement released by District 97 and the union, the increases are also "aimed at providing the members with a more consistent rage of growth in their salaries over the course of their employment with the district, which will help with the recruitment and retention for these positions."

The new agreement also features updated certification requirements for technology specialists designed to "align them with the current standards" and "one-time post-retirement payment of $200 for each year of service" for support professional union members who retire from D97 after at least "eight years of consecutive service in the bargaining unit."

In addition, two union members will be appointed to the district's professional learning committee, and will "be responsible for helping to plan professional development for the other members of the bargaining unit." 

The agreement between the D97 board and the teacher assistants' union features a 6-percent wage increase in the contract's first year, a 3-percent wage increase in 2020-21 and a 2-percent wage increase in the final two years of the contract. 

The 6-percent increase is designed to address the higher-than-expected growth rate in the CPI-U and to make wages more competitive with market rates. The new salary structure, officials said, will help the district more effectively recruit and retain teaching assistants. 

Both agreements will shift the funding and management of the sick leave bank from the D97 school board to the two unions— measures that district officials estimated could save D97 up to $33,000 a year, depending on the total number of sick days used. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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