Union wins bonuses, raises in settlement with Crystal Lake District 47 over use of temp agency

Support staff union had filed labor relations complaint over use of outside temp workers for para jobs

About 100 union members attended Monday night’s District 47 board meeting, many wearing red t-shirts to display solidarity.

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and the union representing its support staff have agreed on a settlement over the district’s use of a temp agency to fill vacant paraprofessional positions.

The District 47 board approved an agreement Monday night to pay paraprofessionals a $2,000 settlement and increase starting pay wages. That followed the Crystal Lake Association of Support Staff union, or CLASS, and the Illinois Education Association filing what’s known as a charge against the district with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in October.

CLASS, which represents more than 100 paraprofessionals who serve the almost 7,000 students across 12 schools in District 47, first spoke out against the district’s use of a temp agency at the start of the school year in August.

District 47 used Sunbelt staffing agency to fill nine paraprofessional positions at the start of the school year. The agency receives $56 to $65 for every hour a temporary employee works, district Director of Communications Kari Firak said. According to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, staffing agencies only are allowed in emergency situations that threaten the safety or health of the students or staff. The school board also must provide an opportunity to bargain with the union before hiring a staffing agency.

As part of the settlement, the district will pay $2,000 to each paraprofessional employed before Nov. 23 and still employed as of the last day of this academic year. The settlement will not be “construed as an admission of any liability or wrongdoing by any party,” according to the agreement.

The district also amended its current 2023-26 contract with CLASS to increase wages for the next school year. Paraprofessionals will receive a starting wage of $17.54 per hour, and returning employees will receive a higher wage increase. The starting wage for the position for the 2023-24 school year was $16.14 per hour, according to district documents.

The updated contract also gives an annual wage increase of $1 an hour, plus a 5% raise for paraprofessionals employed during the 2023-24 school year. Changes to the internal substitute pay rates also were made to give employees a flat rate in addition to their regular hourly rates.

About 100 union members attended Monday night’s board meeting, many wearing red T-shirts to display solidarity. Attendees erupted into applause after the board unanimously approved both the settlement agreement and the updated CLASS contract.

“This is a big win for us as paras but also for the students we work with,” CLASS President Stephanie Lieurance said in a news release from the Illinois Education Association. “This settlement was a long time coming, and it goes to show when you see something wrong happening, speaking up is the right thing to do. We fought hard all school year to resolve this with the district, and we are so happy we can move forward.”

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