District 65 board approves contract


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Washington Elementary School is a part of Evanston/Skokie District 65. The board approved teacher contract on Monday after months of tense negotiations.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education approved the teacher contract proposal in a unanimous vote Monday night.

This finalizes the agreement that was reached between the board and the District 65 Educators’ Council before Thanksgiving. Teachers in the council approved the contract proposal on Friday, with 85 percent of teachers voicing their approval.

The votes come after months of tense back-and-forth over the contract. Teams from both sides began negotiating in February but could not reach an agreement before the school year started. A federal mediator was called in to help in October, and the teachers activated a strike timeline a few weeks later, meaning offers from both sides were posted online and the teachers would have the ability to strike after in a matter of time.

Board president Candace Chow said at Monday’s meeting that “nothing good comes easy,” voicing approval of the contract that were finally agreed upon.

“This one was good; it also was not easy, but we came through it,” she said.

Chow said the agreement both “honors the needs” of the teachers while accounting for the financial situation the district is in. Superintendent Paul Goren told The Daily in November that the District was expecting a $4.5 million deficit for next school year. In the 2020-2021 school year, the district’s deficit is projected to be $10.7 million.

The contract agreed upon is for three years rather than the traditional four, which Goren said Monday may help them deal better with ongoing budget difficulties.

“The contract responds to the financial uncertainties that are facing the district,” he said. “Multi-year (contract) allows us to work together as a team … to face some of the uncertainties that we are facing both at the district level and especially at the state level.”

Goren said he appreciated the fact that the council kept the District’s financial outlook in mind while negotiating.

The two sides disagreed on several key issues at the center of the debate, including additional planning time for teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Council president Paula Zelinski said Monday she appreciated the board’s willingness to help improve working conditions for the teachers.

“Many people heard that working conditions were really important for our teachers, and we really appreciate the fact that the administration and the board heard that teachers were looking for more time to collaborate with their teammates and to be able to address many of the issues that our kids face,” she said. “On behalf of the teachers, we’re very pleased”

At the end of the day, Goren said the two sides have the same priorities in mind.

“Negotiations is a back and forth process,” he said. “It’s important to stress that even in the back and forth, it’s grounded in a shared desire for both parties to do what is best and what we believe is best as educators.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly