2-year salary freeze part of Niles teachers' agreementPublished 9:21pm Tuesday, June 8, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Just when it seemed like Niles teachers and the Niles Community Schools District had reached the point of a stalemate in hammering out a teachers’ contract, the Niles District Education Association announced Monday an agreement between the two organizations has been met.
In the agreement, teachers will see a two-year freeze in salary and a reduction of insurance benefits and will pay an increased percentage of the insurance premium.
A statement issued by president of the teachers union, Andy Roberts, was read for the district’s board of education Monday night.
“Niles teachers do their part to help the district balance the budget and ensure our students will continue to receive a quality education,” Roberts said in the statement. “After a year of working without a contract the Niles District Education Association has ratified a two-year contract that will expire in June of 2011. The contract represents concessions that amount to over $1 million of the total budget shortfall projected by this administration and the Board of Education.”
Board president Dana Daniels said he believes the development was the result of “a collaborative effort between our negotiating team and theirs.”
Everyone, he said, understands the depth of the financial situation facing the district.
“The ratification of this contract indicates that Niles teachers truly care about the students, parents and community members of the Niles Community School District.,” Roberts said. “We look forward to the 2010-2011 school year and working with our new superintendent, Mr. (Richard) Weigel.”
The two groups were headed toward a fact finding session after mediation ended with no resolution to either side’s differing points of view.
Daniels said concessions indeed amount to more than $1 million in necessary cuts.
“Think of it as a three-prong stool,” he said. The district is looking at making cuts to rectify a multimillion-dollar shortfall in three distinct areas.
About $1 million was saved through use of the district’s fund equity and $1.8 million has been saved in district-wide cuts, including the closure of Eastside Elementary School.
In addition to the money saved by teacher concessions, Daniels said teachers aren’t the only ones who will have to feel the effects of significant cuts.
School districts statewide remain under a shadow of uncertainty as they wait to see just how the state will fund schools for the year.
“I would say it (the situation) is still very serious,” Daniels said. “But we’re going to weather this year fine and it looks like we’re going to weather next year fine.”
Asked if he felt both sides were comfortable and happy with the agreement, Daniels said, “comfortable, yes. I think people thought we were fair with everything.”
But nobody is happy about those cuts that were left necessary – cuts that shut down one beloved school and saw the loss of beloved teachers.
“You’re never going to be happy when you’re cutting the budget, No. 1,” Daniels said, especially when it means a loss in people.
“That’s something you never want to do,” he said.