On Nov. 8, while many people were watching election returns, the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education approved a groundbreaking new three-year contract with RBHS teachers and educational support workers.

Under the new deal, which goes into effect retroactively to July 1, step increases and a formal salary schedule were eliminated. Instead teachers will get raises of either $3,800 or $2,100 in each of the next three years. Most teachers will receive the $3,800 raise. 

Only the most experienced teachers, those with more than 30 years of experience, will receive a $2,100 raise. There are 18 teachers at RBHS who qualify for the lower raise.

Teachers have traditionally been paid under a salary schedule that allowed them to effectively get two pay raises combined into one each year, via “step” raises.

“Under the old contract a salary schedule would give a teacher two raises,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. “They would receive a raise on their base salary and they would receive a second raise basically for another year of service. By eliminating the salary schedule, the teachers now receive one flat raise.”

Skinkis said the elimination of step increases will make teacher pay more transparent and should save the district money in the long run.

“The advantage for the school district of eliminating the salary schedule is it makes teachers’ compensation straightforward and that they’re getting one consistent increase and there’s no schedule with compounding rates of pay,” Skinkis said. “The elimination of a salary schedule is a big step.”

While teachers in most districts still receive step increases that advance a teacher a notch on a salary schedule each year, many school boards have been trying to eliminate the two-tier raise system. Brookfield-La Grange Park Elementary School District 95 was one of the first districts in the area to eliminate step increases when it did so six years ago.

The average salary for a teacher at RBHS is $93,389 according to the Illinois school report card. Because the salary increase for the next three years is a flat dollar amount, less experienced teachers will receive larger percentage raises than more experienced teachers.

Under the new contract, the starting salary for a new teacher at RBHS with just a bachelor’s degree will be $55,000. The starting salary for a teacher with a master’s degree will be $60,000.

Teachers who earn advanced degrees will still get additional pay. Teachers who earn a master’s degree will get $5,000 added to their base salary. A teacher who earns 15 additional graduate hours beyond a master’s degree have another $2,000 added to their base salary up to 30 graduate hours. A teacher who goes from 30 to 45 graduate hours beyond a master’s degree will have $2,500 added to their base salary. 

Teachers who receive national board certification will receive an annual stipend of $2,000.

School board members Garry Gryczan and Matt Sinde served on the district’s negotiating committee along with Skinkis and attorney Lynn Himes.

Sinde said the board and the teachers’ union worked together to reach a contract agreement. Teachers had been working this year without a contract since the previous three-year agreement expired July 1. Negotiations on a new contract began in February and culminated last month. 

“Everybody’s happy it was approved and I think it shows you that people can work together,” Sinde said. “We have three more years of teaching our kids and not worrying about any strikes,”

Retirement incentives were also restructured. Teachers who put in their notice to retire four years before their retirement date will get 3-percent raises for their last four years. Retiring teachers will now receive a $15,000 payment in their first two years of retirement. 

“The idea behind that is that it eliminates putting the burden on the pension system and possibly eventually on the district if there is a cost shift in the pensions,” Skinkis said.

An instructional coach position was added for the Special Education Department and four additional assistant coaching and four additional club sponsor stipend positions were added. 

Health insurance payments were unchanged in the new contract, Skinkis said.

Under the new contract, educational support personnel will receive a flat 3-percent raise this year. In the last two years of the contract their raises will be tied to the consumer price index but will be no more than 3 percent or less than 1.5 percent.

Skinkis said that the contract was approved by Riverside Brookfield Teachers Association (RBEA) by a large margin.

RBHS history teacher John Fields, the RBEA president, could not be immediately reached for comment.