Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills District 181 teachers get raises, pension perk

Nobody, not even Barbara Johnson, a retiring teacher who started in 1973, can remember a new teachers’ contract being settled before the current one expired in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181.

But that’s just what happened May 29 when the District 181 Board unanimously approved a new two-year contract with the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association. The teachers ratified the new agreement May 28.

“We’re thrilled that we were able to reach an agreement before the summer started,” said Heather Scott, co-president of the teachers’ association. “It’s wonderful for all the teachers that this isn’t something we’ll have to be concerned with over the summer.”

The new contract, which takes effect May 30 and runs through June 30, 2016, includes an increase to all teachers’ base salary in each of the next two years: 1.75 percent for 2014-15 and 1.5 percent for 2015-16.

The previous contract was scheduled to run through June 30; however, the new agreement supersedes it so that teachers can benefit from a new pension reform law, which takes effect June 1.

“This provision is important because when a teacher retires at the end of their career, they will be accessing a potentially higher salary to calculate their pension annuity,” said Bridget McGuiggan, District 181’s director of communications. “This provision does not cost the district any additional funds, but will benefit the teachers when they retire in the future.”

Along with salary increases, the new contract also calls for an increased contribution from teachers for family insurance, something that will assist the board in recouping increases in insurance costs to the district, said Gary Frisch, the district’s assistant superintendent of business and operations.

Scott said the key to reaching a deal without a lot of pain was the use of interest-based negotiations, a process not previously used in District 181. Both parties sit together in the same room discussing interests and options instead of in separate rooms, caucusing with their own teams while passing proposals back and forth.

“Everyone takes their hat off at the door and has an equal opportunity and stake in discussions,” Scott said. “Relationships were built, respectful dialogue occurred, resolutions were reached, and a reasonable mutual agreement was the end result. We are thrilled with the success of this process.”

The board’s negotiating team agreed that the collaborative process worked well.

Jill Vorobiev, the board’s vice president, said the contract also supports the board’s commitment to providing staff with the necessary structural supports to implement district and legislative initiatives and continue fostering an environment of excellence in education.

Teachers and district representatives had an initial negotiations planning meeting in September 2013 and began meeting formally in February.

Scott and Frisch both said one of the most significant components of the contract is the formation of a new committee that will begin meeting in the fall. The Compensation Review Committee will review the teachers’ salary schedule, continuing education, health insurance, professional development, retirement and other forms of compensation.

Don White, the district’s new superintendent, said he is enthused by the committee’s charge.

“The committee will look at ways to be creative and flexible in teacher compensation while ensuring that the design is sustainable over time,” he said. “We want to continue to attract and retain outstanding teachers, and we also want to encourage and reward staff for meeting district goals through professional development.”

The new two-year contract will expire as the work of the committee is scheduled to finish, in the spring of 2016.

“Creating a committee to fully vet these issues now will ensure that long-term solutions in the next contract have been well thought out and corroboratively designed,” White said.

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