Teachers and the school board at Riverside-Brookfield High School approved a new three-year contract last week with more than two months remaining on their existing deal. That fact stands in stark contrast to the previous two contracts, which were ratified months after the prior contracts had expired and well into the new school year.

In the new contract, which takes effect on July 1, teacher salary increases will average around 3.4 percent, with teachers receiving flat-dollar raises, not percentage increases.

Educational support workers, commonly known as para-professionals, will receive 3-percent pay raises annually. 

Because of adjustments to insurance and late-in-career pay raises, the new contract is projected to cost the district an additional 2.1 percent a year compared to the expiring contract, according to a joint press release issued by the school board and the Riverside Brookfield Education Association (RBEA), the union that represents teachers and educational support personnel at the school.

With Superintendent Kevin Skinkis and the board keen to have a new contract in place before Principal Hector Freytas takes over on July 1, the board and the RBEA used a new technique called the interest-based negotiating model.

“It focuses more on … collaborative solutions instead of the traditional model, which is more on exchange of proposals back and forth and very time consuming and very cumbersome,” Skinkis said.

Bargaining began in February, and the deal was reached in just seven negotiating sessions, according to Skinkis.

The school board’s negotiating team included outgoing board member Tim Walsh and Wes Smithing, aided by Skinkis and lawyer Todd Faulkner. Union negotiators included RBEA President Doug Schultz, a math teacher; president-elect Dan Monahan, a social studies and math teacher; and math teachers Dan Bonarigo and Marty Sloan along with a representative from the Illinois Education Association.

“The collaboration between the union’s team and the board’s team was outstanding,” Schultz said.

Both sides also praised federal mediator Rosa Tiscareno of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who helped lead all the negotiating sessions.

“I think using the federal mediator from the labor board definitely helped the process,” Monahan said. “Having us in the same room and working together the entire day definitely helped our communication.”

Relations between teachers and school board and the current administration led by Skinkis have sometimes been rocky, but seem to have improved over the last two years. School board members have been meeting with the RBEA leadership every few months, both formally and informally.

“The staff expressed to me that they feel very respected,” Schultz said.

That was reflected in the 88 to 1 vote to approve the contract by the RBEA membership, who voted one day before the school board approved the contract unanimously at its April 23 meeting. 

The new contract, like the previous one, gives teachers flat-dollar raises based on seniority. Teachers with only a bachelor’s degree will receive $2,500 raises in each of the next three years. Teachers with master’s degrees and less than five years’ experience will get $3,000 raises for the next three years, while teachers with master’s degrees and five to 10 years’ experience will get annual raises of $3,800.

Teachers with master’s degrees and 11 to 30 years of experience will receive annual pay raises of $4,000. Teachers with more than 30 years of experience will receive annual increases of only $2,100. 

Beginning July 1, the minimum salary for a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree is $55,000 while the maximum salary for such a teacher is $80,000. For a teacher with a master’s degree, the minimum salary is $60,000 with a maximum of $133,000. 

For a teacher with an MA plus 30 hours of additional graduate school credit, the minimum salary is $62,000 and the maximum $137,000. For teachers with 45 graduate credit hours beyond a master’s degree, the minimum salary is $63,000 and the maximum $143,000, while a teacher with 60 graduate credit hours beyond a master’s degree can make no less than $64,000 and no more than $147,000.

Teachers who are evaluated as “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” will receive annual raises of only $1,050.

Teachers who earn a master’s degree while teaching at RBHS will receive a $5,000 bonus which will be added to their base salary.

Union members who have PPO health insurance will have to contribute 10 percent of the health insurance premium for single coverage up from 7 percent in the current contract. 

Employees who switch from the PPO health plan to the HMO plan will get a one-time bonus of $500 if they are on the single plan or $1,000 if they are on the family plan. Employees and the district will split evenly any premium increase of greater than 5 percent.

The athletic coaching stipend schedule was restructured into a four-tier system based on seniority, instead of the current two-tier system. The most experienced coaches will receive stipend increases of about 8.5 percent.

“Coaching stipends were well below market value,” said Schultz, who coaches softball and golf. 

The number of sick days was reduced from 19 to 15 for employees with five or more years of seniority. Employees who received a one-time grant of 180 to 360 sick days under former Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann more than a decade ago will have their annual sick day allotment reduced from 15 to 10.

Skinkis said that he was pleased with the contract and the process.

“The agreement is fair to both sides,” Skinkis said.