By Bob Skolnik
Lyons Township High School teachers finally have a contract. On Jan. 22 the Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education voted 6-0 to approve a new five-year deal.
The contract will go into effect retroactively to the start of the 2018-19 school year and expire in 2023. Teachers voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract in late December.
The contract gives teachers a 1.5-percent increase in base pay this year and then 1-percent increases in base pay for the remaining four years of the contract.
Combined with automatic step increases, LTHS teachers will see their salaries increase from anywhere from about 3 percent to about 5 percent this year, with the highest percentage increases going to less-experienced teachers.
"We're pleased to arrive at an agreement with our faculty association," said District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea. "We think the contract is fair, for our board, our faculty and taxpayers. We have a common goal, which is to provide top-quality education and meet the needs of all of our students."
Under the new contract, the starting salary for an LTHS teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience is $57,551. The salary for a teacher with a master's degree and 10 years of experience is now $93,908.
A teacher with 60 hours of graduate credit beyond a master's degree and 18 years of seniority at LTHS will make $134,670 this year.
According to the Illinois School Report Card, the average salary of an LTHS teacher is $109,139. Eighty-nine percent of LTHS teachers hold a master's degree, according to the school report card.
At a time when some school districts are moving away from traditional salary schedules and their automatic step increases, this contract expands the number of steps to 22 from 18, beginning next year. Teachers with more than 22 years of seniority will receive raises of 1 percent for each five years of time working at LTHS.
The increase in the number of steps is reaction to changes to the teacher pension system, which causes younger teacher to have to work longer to receive their maximum retirement pension.
"I don't think the matrix is the bugaboo that people make it out to be," said Joseph Massey, an English teacher at LTHS who is the president of the teachers' union.
The contract negotiations stretched throughout the first semester as the bargaining teams worked to accommodate a change in state law enacted in 2018, which now penalizes districts that give retiring teachers raises of more than 3 percent, down from the previous 6 percent.
"A lot of it was just trying to figure out the legislative changes," Maffey said.
Maffey said the contract negotiations, while protracted, remained very professional and free of rancor.
"I think you can see other districts around this area and it gets pretty contentious, and we didn't want the community and students to feel impacted by this," Maffey said.
The new contract tweaks the salary schedule to make raises more even throughout a teacher's career.
The contract made no significant changes in health insurance. The teacher share of health insurance premiums is unchanged at 22 percent of premiums.
"In education that's pretty high," Kilrea said. "Our staff contributes more than other places do, but it's in line with what we see for districts like us."
Stipends for teachers who serve as coaches or sponsors of co-curricular activities will increase by 2 percent each year of the contract.
Teachers who do academic support all year during the 25-minute-long lunch study hall will now get a $1,000 annual stipend for that added work.
"When we introduced the lunch study hall we knew there were going to be some kinks we had to work out, and we feel like this is a way to make it a bit more equitable for people who have that position," Maffey said.