Evanston/Skokie School District 65 reaches agreement with teachers union

Jean+Luft%2C+president+of+the+District+65+Educators%27+Council%2C+teachers+thank+the+school+board+for+approving+the+agreement+between+the+board+and+teachers+union.

Susan Du/The Daily Northwestern

Jean Luft, president of the District 65 Educators' Council, teachers thank the school board for approving the agreement between the board and teachers union.

Susan Du, City Editor

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board approved a new agreement with its teachers union Monday, the same day thousands of Chicago educators went on strike over unresolved contract negotiations.

During a working meeting, District 65 board members unanimously ratified a new four-year contract that received the District 65 Educators’ Council’s stamp of approval before the weekend. The new contract comes after six months of sometimes heated discussions between the two parties.

Although the school board and teachers union disagreed on contract issues ranging from teachers’ planning time to the availability of art programs, both sides expressed satisfaction with reaching a consensus at the beginning of the school year.

District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy applauded union head Jean Luft for her representation of teachers’ concerns throughout contract negotiations.

“All understood how important a successful start of school is to our students, parents and community,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “(The contract) is fair to all and represents what we believe is in the best interests of the entire Evanston/Skokie School District 65.”

The full contract is not yet publicly available, but some provisions were spelled out in a district news release distributed at Monday’s meeting.

The new agreement allows increased planning time for elementary school teachers and additional compensation for middle school teachers who take on more teaching time than the standard six and a half periods.

The approved contract also calls for salary increases for teachers who contribute more to their health insurance plan.

In the first year of the four-year contract, all teachers who move up the pay scale will receive a 1.5 percent bonus. Those who are already at the top of the pay scale will receive a 2 percent bonus at the end of the same year.

In the following two years, teachers will receive a 1.5 percent increase in salary in addition to climbing up a step in the pay scale. In the fourth year, they will receive a 1.75 percent salary increase plus another step.

The ratified agreement creates a joint task force to study the feasibility of giving K-5 students daily fine arts classes as well as the feasibility of providing all classrooms with air conditioning.

Luft said at Monday’s meeting that she believes the new contract reflects the dramatic changes in the teaching environment over the past four years.

“After six months of arguing and many late-night sessions, we are pleased that the new agreement improves working environment and also provides avenues for making future improvements,” she said. “The District 65 teachers are eager to continue the long tradition of high quality instruction in the Evanston/Skokie communities and we consider it an honor to work with a community that values and respects education for all children.”

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