Kaneland teachers union, school board ratify new contract just before classes begin

Collective bargaining agreement ratified at special meeting Aug. 5

SUGAR GROVE – As kids and their parents get ready for the quickly approaching new school year, they no longer have to worry that their teachers don’t have a contract.

During a special school board meeting on Aug. 5, the school board and Kaneland Education Association (KEA) ratified a collective bargaining agreement for five years that will cover the current 2019-2020 school year and run through the 2023-2024 school year.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Suzie Acksel, KEA chief negotiator. “Now we are able to concentrate on starting up with the school year.”

KEA showed huge support at previous school board meetings, dressing in red and holding up signs in support of one another.

“It’s a passion when you teach here and that passion becomes your life,” Acksel said. “We all want what’s the best for the kids and for our members and the district as well. It was a great victory for everyone all the way around.”

The board voted unanimously, 6-0, although board member Pedro Rivas was absent and did not vote.

“Although contract negotiations can be sometimes long and take a while, at the end of the day, we did a really great job of putting together a strong, positive contract,” board member Aaron Lawler said. “A lot of times you’ll hear people say you have to walk away not feeling good a little bit. I don’t think that’s how it went. I think we came away thinking this is a pretty good contract that we all worked for.”

A joint press release stated that, “The BOE and KEA believe that the ratified five-year agreement will allow for more competitive salaries for beginning educators and veteran educators alike. The BOE and KEA found common ground on a variety of work load, procedural and compensation issues.”

Those compensation issues include educator increases with an estimated percentage increase of 20.38 percent over the length of the contract, which will expire June 30, 2024, with an average increase of 4.1 percent.

In addition, the starting teacher salary will be increased from $41,500 in the first year to $43,269 by the final year of the contract.

“We were able to maintain a salary matrix and very fair compensation for our members,” Acksel said. “We were also happy with the longevity of the contract. It gives us some stability and the district some stability as well.”

Insurance benefits and retirement enhancements will remain unchanged while updating the latter’s eligibility requirements to mirror the Illinois State Teacher Retirement System guidelines.

A copy of the full contract will be made available in a few weeks and will be posted on the district website.

Shana Sparber, president of the school board, acknowledged that the five-year deal is the longest contract ever between the two sides.