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District 202 finally gets contract signed

Madhu Mayer | 2/11/2015, 4:54 p.m.
Following months of negotiations that were at times contentious, the Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 Board on Monday unanimously ...

Following months of negotiations that were at times contentious, the Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 Board on Monday unanimously approved a new three-year contract with the teachers' union.

Roger Bonuchi, board president, said he is glad the uncertainty of a strike looking over the district is over.

"Obviously, this is very important to our staff and the board," said Bonuchi. After thanking the negotiation teams for Superintendent Dr. Lane Abrell and the union, Bonuchi recognized that that the teachers are "some of the most important people in our district."

The Association of Plainfield Teachers membership on Jan. 29 ratified a new contract that increases District 202 teachers’ pay by an average of 2 to 3 percent a year, retroactive to July 1, 2014.

The APT, which represents about 1,850 certified teachers, approved the contract by a vote of 1,078 in favor to 554 opposed. This was the second vote by APT membership on a proposed new contract in four months. A team of District 202 administrators and APT leadership reached tentative agreement on the original proposal last October after 11 months of negotiations. The last contract expired June 30, 2014.

However, the APT membership voted against the first tentative contract proposal, which forced union leadership and the district to return to the bargaining table in November to re-address issues concerning workload, retirement and compensation.

The new contract includes several changes from the original proposal intended to meet teachers’ concerns from last fall.

The most significant is additional retirement language recognizing years of service in the district. Retirees with at least 15 years of experience will get $500 per year of service. Retirees who work at least 33 years will also get an additional benefit of $14,000.

“This benefit rewards loyalty, longevity and experience,” said Abrell. “It also allows the district to encourage more veteran employees to retire at their earliest opportunity. The potential savings in staffing can greatly benefit the district.”

Bonuchi said the modest raises in this new contract will translate into a slight increase in operating expenses. Funds for APT member salaries are expected to increase by 2.2 percent this year; 1.1 percent next year; and 2.6 percent in 2016-17.

The last teachers’ contract, which ran from 2011-14, included a one-year hard pay freeze and modest increases of less than 1.5 percent each of the last two years of the contract.

Likewise, pay for support staff was also frozen for a year in its current contract to help save money during the recession. The current contract with the Plainfield Association of Support Staff expires in June 2015. Negotiations with PASS are expected to begin later this spring.

Administrators’ pay was also frozen for two years. Both administrators and support staff saw their share of health insurance increase.

Regarding the new agreement, APT President Dawn Bullock said, “This contract moves our association forward from where we were, and gets us closer to where we hope and deserve to be," she said. "We understand the many issues that District 202 is struggling with, and we appreciate the work everyone did to produce a reasonable agreement."