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Sycamore approves contract with teacher’s aides, assistants

SYCAMORE – Teaching assistants and aides at Sycamore School District 427 can expect a slight salary increase for the next five years under a new contract.

The school board unanimously voted Tuesday to approve a five-year contract with paraeducators from The Sycamore Education Support Staff Association. The teaching aides are eligible for an average 2.8 percent increase in pay each year over the five years.

The current two-year contract that expires in August had no salary increase for the first year of the contract and a 1.5 percent salary increase in the second year of the contract.

Superintendent Kathy Countryman said negotiations began in late spring. The Sycamore Education Support Staff Association's main concern was that the previous contract had no salary increase for the first year, Countryman said.

"From a district perspective, we were looking at the longevity of the contract and ensuring those employees feel like they are appreciated," she said. "We understand the role they play is vital to students' growth. We want to show them that importance through the longevity of the contract."

Teaching assistants are used when a class is over the school district's recommended class size. They also work with students with special needs.

Paraeducators with no experience currently receive pay with an hourly rate of $9.90 an hour. The new contract will pay them $10.15 an hour, Countryman said.

That means a paraeducator who starts in 2015 would make $11.37 in fiscal 2019, said Nicole Stuckert, director of financial services. The raises could cost $60,000 to $80,000 each year, Stuckert said.

The average pay for a paraeducator is $15 an hour, Stuckert said.

The pay for paraeducators represents about 3 percent of the salary portion of the district's budget, Stuckert said.

An Illinois State Board of Education's Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant will help reimburse the school district for up to $3,500 per paraeducator, depending on if the paraeducator works full-time, for a total reimbursement of up to $308,000 a year, Stuckert said.

Last fiscal year, the district received $437,630 through the IDEA grant, Stuckert said.

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