The new three-year contract between the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education and the Riverside Brookfield Education Association (RBEA) was notable for many reasons, but one of the most notable is that it was arrived at without much public drama.

As recently as last spring, there was a feeling that the teachers union and school board were so at odds, so much bad blood had been spilled in the past four years, that a teacher strike was a very real possibility.

It’s been a tough few years at RBHS, where teachers saw their ranks thinned through layoffs, where students saw extracurricular opportunities trimmed and where parents began to wonder what to make of the changes.

The new contract could not have been an easy one for teachers to swallow. It comes with concessions on pay, insurance, early retirement and a vacation-day perk that allowed teachers to bump their pensions a bit.

But the contract maintains step raises, a critical issue for teachers, and the concessions on insurance put teachers more in line with the private sector in terms of percentage contributions for premiums. As for the vacation-day perk, it was one of those provisions that makes taxpayers’ heads hurt. We’re glad it was eliminated.

We’re also glad that many stipend positions, cut during the district’s austerity strategy following the economic crash, are being restored. Extracurricular activities are key to a well-rounded high school education. These aren’t merely fluff. They enrich students’ lives.

For us, the key to an equitable contract is its fairness. Are teachers appropriately compensated for the important work they do? Does the contract help promote a positive learning atmosphere and provide students with the opportunities they need to succeed? Are taxpayers getting a fair deal, one that balances the cost of providing public education with the ability of the community to pay for it?

The reason there was so little public drama (we have no idea if there was much behind-the-scenes drama, but it doesn’t appear as if that was the case) is because this contract tries to accomplish that balancing act.

Riverside-Brookfield High School isn’t done asking the community to help it provide the best possible education for its children. At some point in the future, the district will be coming to the public to ask for increased property taxes in order to do so.

This contract is a reflection of that future reality.

After two contracts that taxpayers clearly thought were stacked against them, this is a contract where everyone gave a little bit. Did teachers give the most? Maybe. They gave ground on many issues we’re sure were important to them.

But they didn’t give up everything. They were able to maintain excellent pay, excellent benefits and the promise of future step increases.

They have spoken through their actions. The board’s actions — being advocates for taxpayers without trying to hammer teachers into abject submission — also are important.

The key is balance. Excellent public education is vital for our communities to thrive, and this contract allows that mission to advance.