Niles ratifies new teachers’ contractPublished 4:04pm Friday, July 27, 2012
Negotiations are officially over.
The Niles Community Schools Board of Education and the Niles teachers’ union ratified a new contract Monday evening after more than a year of bargaining.
The new contract calls for a 5 percent decrease in teachers’ salary, caps on insurance and a change in the salary schedule from 13 steps to 20. It is good through the 2013-14 school year.
Throughout the process, school board members stressed the importance of striking a deal that would fix the district’s structural deficit problem.
The school district’s attorney, Eric Delaporte, said this contract does that — for the most part.
“It isn’t completely fixed .… We have to have retirement reform from the state and that’s the bottom line,” Delaporte said. “Without it we are facing an uphill battle, but it is a lot shorter hill than it used to be.”
Tom Skarbek, district business manager, echoed Delaporte’s comments, saying, if the state doesn’t do something about retirement costs, all districts will eventually go broke.
“It is the big looming factor out there,” Skarbek said.
School board president Jeff Curry said negotiation teams met more than 30 times for more than 200 hours of talks.
He praised the teachers for showing their willingness to sacrifice for the good of the district. Administrators and secretaries, he said, took pay cuts months before.
He also praised the board for weathering a sometimes heated negotiation process.
“It’s not easy standing strong. You didn’t punt, and you didn’t kick the can down the road. That doesn’t help anybody out here, and it certainly doesn’t help our students,” he said. “I am absolutely convinced now this can now be one of the strongest school districts in the county.”
The members of the teachers union met before the board meeting and ratified the contract.
Teachers’ union president Katherine Elsner said she is glad both sides were able to come to an agreement.
“We look forward to working and continuing the cooperative spirit we had the past two weeks so we can keep working for the education of the students in Niles,” she said.