(Editors’s Note: This story was updated to include expanded numbers on the contract’s teacher-salary limitations.)
Avoca teachers appear to have the “fair contract” they were hoping for.
The teachers and board of education reached an agreement on a five-year contract that was approved on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The new contract, covering 2020-2025, slows salary growth in the first year, expands the parental leave policy and increases teachers’ time with students, among other changes.
According to a press release from Avoca District 37, the contract allows Avoca 37 to slow its expenditure growth, a specific point of concern with the district on the state’s financial watch list.
“Our teachers — with the support of our families — are an indispensable foundation of our success,” Board president Rick Zelinsky said in the release. “This contract will make it possible for that to continue while improving the district’s financial position and the quality of education our students receive.”
While negotiating in earnest since June, the Avoca Education Association in September rallying for a “fair contract” and voicing its displeasure that some of the board’s early proposals would hurt teacher retention and recruitment, as previously reported by The Record.
AEA president Jen Pease seemed pleased with the compromises in the final agreement.
“It was important to maintain aspects of our contract that would continue to retain our excellent teaching staff while also attracting new teaching talent to the district,” she said in a statement. “The AEA feels we achieved this goal in a fiscally responsible manner.”
According to the deal, teachers at the most-advanced steps of the district’s pay structure — Step 25 for teachers with at least master’s degrees — will receive no salary change next school year, 2021-22.
The annual bumps will again pick up for those teachers for the 2022-23 school year for the three teachers currently at that step.
Additionally, the step increase for all other teachers was trimmed by 25 percent in 2021-22.
Because increases are percentage-based, the first-year changes will continue to reduce expenditures over the length of the contract.
Other cost-saving measures for Avoca 37 are a 10 percent reduction in the PPO health-insurance premiums covered by the district and a 1 percent reduction in the retirement incentive for each year it is in effect, said Superintendent Kaine Osburn.
As of 2019, Avoca D37 teachers averaged the highest annual base salary ($92,700) among their New Trier Township peers and that number has increased 27.3 percent over the past 10 years, according to data from Illinoisreportcard.com, a product of the Illinois State Board of Education.
The average teachers’ salary at similar North Shore districts are: $87,300 in Glencoe 35, $87,100 in Winnetka 36, $85,600 in Kenilworth 38, $84,600 in Sunset Ridge 29 and $78,300 in Wilmette District 39. The state’s 2019 average teacher salary in elementary schools is $67,000.
The new contract also expands the district’s parental leave policy to include fathers and two more weeks.
The policy now allows teachers to take up to 10 paid weeks off using accumulated sick days.
Teachers planning time and “student contact” time were also altered in the new contract. Planning time was reduced by one hour — from 1,000 to 940 minutes a week, or an average of 12 minutes a school day — at Marie Murphy Junior High and 1 hour 20 minutes a week at Avoca West Elementary School.
Conversely, time with students was increased by the same amount: up to 1 hour (1,200 to 1,260 minutes) a week at Marie Murphy and up to 1 hour 20 minutes a week at Avoca West.
The length of a teacher’s day remained the same at 8 hours (480 minutes as recorded in the contract).
The final noted adjustment in the new contact is a limitation on tuition reimbursement for graduate school.
To realize the reimbursement, which is up to $3,600 in 2020-21, district-employed graduate students must receive at least a “B” in the subsidized class.
“Together, these changes will help the board address the district’s challenging financial status, made more so since the onset of COVID-19, while continuing its ability to attract and retain high quality teachers,” the release says.