BY CAROL ROEHM
After much heated discussion, Danville District 118 school board members voted 5-2 to ratify a new contract for the district’s teachers, teaching assistants, secretaries and learning resource clerks during a special meeting Wednesday night.
Board members Steve Bragorgos and Frank Young cast the dissenting votes.
The Danville Education Association membership voted Thursday to ratify the new three-year contract by a 94 percent majority.
At the beginning of the meeting, Young made a motion to amend Wednesday night’s agenda to postpone voting on the contract, with Bragorgos seconding the motion by speaker phone. Bragorgos has been stationed in Kosovo for the past year with the U.S. Army.
Young said he wanted to postpone the meeting until Bragorgos was back home and could vote in person on the contract.
Young also added he felt that by calling a special meeting the night before a holiday, the district was hastily voting on the contract and “burying” board members’ concerns with the proposed pact.
“I don’t think it’s a good contract for the community,” Young said. “It’s important to continue it (meeting) so he (Bragorgos) can be part of the discussion and participate.”
Bragorgos said he had concerns about the terms of the contract — particularly that the district will pay for dependent insurance coverage if both parents are district employees when the same benefit is not extended to single employees with dependents — and believed there needed to be “more dialog on the issues” and “a more thorough discussion.”
“The insurance piece is a recipe for disaster,” he said, referring to when the DEA begins to help administering the insurance plan in 2015. “There are a lot of details that need to be developed now, not deferred.”
Board members Dr. Randal Ashton and Gina McGuire, however, disagreed.
“I sympathize with Steve being in Kosovo, but if this was settled in March, you still wouldn’t be here,” Ashton said.
“This certainly isn’t due to lack of discussion,” Ashton said. “We have been discussing this all along.
“Sometimes I haven’t been here and I haven’t been privy to everything, but that’s the process,” he continued. “We deliberated as a board and we made a decision as a board. I’m opposed to prolonging this.”
McGuire agreed, saying board members had spent innumerable hours during the past year discussing and reviewing material to craft an agreement and said Bragorgos was privy to the same materials and should have asked questions sooner if he had concerns.
Board member Darlene Halloran, who was part of the district’s negotiating team, said the public has been voicing their opinion to her.
“The community members want this contract done,” she said.
Citing a study of eight Danville companies that gave their employees with a bachelor’s degree a pay raise of 2.6 to 2.9 percent in the past year, Halloran said, “I believe our contract is fair, and they’re (teachers) getting less of a pay raise than their counterparts in the community.”
Bragorgos cut off Halloran, interjecting, “I’m concerned about other details of the contract” and said that discussions in the last closed session “were rushed.”
“The (teacher) raise is certainly more than the average in Danville,” he added.
Young concurred. “We have to consider what professionals get and what the community can afford.
“I can’t tell you how greedy some people think this is,” Young said.
“The contract is fiscally irresponsible,” he added. “Money wasn’t discussed until after the (school board) election. Local homeowners are going to pay more tax if we pass this (contract).
“I would have liked to have seen air conditioning in all of the schools, so we can have year-round school (rather than pay raises),” he said.
“It’s a great deal for them, but it’s a bad deal for the community,” Young said. “The taxpayers are going to pay the brunt of this.”
Ashton said, “None of us got what we wanted and it’s caused a rift on the board. But we’re trying to retain and recruit the best teachers, and this contract will do that.”
Superintendent Mark Denman said he was pleased the DEA and the district could reach a fair agreement during “very difficult financial times and a poor state economy.”
“Neither side got all that they wanted but still felt it was a fair compromise,” he said.
The new contract includes compensation for employees represented by the DEA, a longer school day, a change in the way employee health insurance is administered and a continuation of the 6 percent retirement incentive, which is paid to teachers who opt to take early retirement but not the state’s early retirement program.
A total of 449 certified employees and 206 non-certified employees have been working without a new contract since the last contract expired June 30, 2012.
The new three-year contract — the result of merging the teacher, teaching assistant, secretary and learning resources clerk contracts into one pact — is retroactive to July 1, 2012 and expires June 30, 2015.
The highlights of the contract include:
Under the new contract, employee salary increases are as follows:
Year 1: teachers, 1.03 percent; teaching assistants, 2.31 percent; and secretaries, 1.69 percent.
Year 2: teachers, 3.47 percent; teaching assistants, 1.46 percent; and secretaries, 1.09 percent.
Year 3: teachers, 3.18 percent; teaching assistants, 3.88 percent; and secretaries, 2.12 percent.
In District 118, the base salary for a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no years of prior experience is $32,792. The base salary for a teacher with 20 years of experience and post-graduate work beyond a master’s degree is $70,188.
Also on Wednesday, school board members:
“All staff will work 15 minutes longer and instructional time will increase 25 minutes for elementary students,” Denman said.
The district will pay up to $2,000, which includes attorney fees and closing costs, to purchase the vacant house that is located south and across the street from Danville High School’s Wayland-Young Field.