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Sycamore School District 427, teachers approve new 3-year contract

District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman
District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman

SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 427 teachers are looking at pay increases in the near future after a pay freeze last year.

The District 427 Board and the
Sycamore Education Association agreed on a three-year contract,
which was announced during the special board meeting Tuesday at the district’s Administration Building,
245 W. Exchange St.

Superintendent Kathy Countryman said none of the teachers union’s negotiators were at the meeting and that the teachers within the union were professional in negotiations. She also mentioned all district employees taking a salary freeze last year because of budget uncertainty at the state level.

“We really appreciated that,” Countryman said. “And, this year, we’re really glad we’re in a place that there is the ability to increase salary.”

Countryman said the new teacher pay scale will look more like a spreadsheet within the contract, with the number of years taught going down one side and education level going across. She said teachers still  will have the opportunity to receive more money for additional coursework taught under the new contract.

In the last contract, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree would have a salary of about $37,000 without taking retirement benefits into account, Countryman said. For a teacher with 25 years of experience and a doctoral degree, the salary would be about $105,430, she said.

On top of those numbers, Countryman said, teachers will receive a
2.75 percent increase on base pay in the first year. They also will receive a
2.75 percent increase in the second year and a 3 percent increase in the third year, she said.

Chief Financial Officer Nicole Stuckert said there will be an increase in insurance premium costs for individual and family coverage. She said there were no changes made to pensions under the new contract, which is effective immediately and expires July 31, 2021.

Stuckert said the salary stipend costs, which is part of the district’s operating expense, will amount to $880,000 over the next three years. Based on the new contract, she said, residents will only have to pay more in taxes if property values go up.

“The levy will increase, but the rate will not increase,” Stuckert said.

Countryman said the district and union used the affinity economic bargaining method during contract negotiations this time around. She said she’s not sure if it took less time overall to negotiate salary and benefits with the new approach, but it helped to better focus on the interests of either side.

Board President Jim Dombek said he’s pleased the board and teachers reached an agreement that benefits all.

“Going forward, it will help provide us a good backbone and framework to get through the next three years,” Dombek said.

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