Fox River Grove District 3 teachers to see salaries, pay ahead of retirement increase

Contract between district, teachers union approved earlier this week

Fox River Grove School District 3 teachers will get a pay raise in the coming years after the district and its teachers union approved a new contract through the 2025-26 school year.

The contract, signed April 16, was approved by the district’s school board on Monday and was passed by the union in a 31-1 vote earlier in the month, said Matt Benrus, a teacher at Fox River Grove Middle School and president of the Fox River Grove Education Association.

The contract, set to take effect on the first day of next school year, will see teachers receive a flat $1,650 raise, along with a 3% increase on their base salary in 2023-24, according to the contract. In second year of the contract, teachers will see a 5% increase in base salary and then 4% in the third and final year of the agreement.

The total increase will result in about a 15.9% raise over the next three years, costing the district about $715,000 total over that time period, Superintendent Sandy Ozimek said Wednesday.

Teachers will see increased wages in other ways, too, according to the contract.

The biggest addition to the new agreement comes in the form of retirement benefits for teachers, Ozimek and Benrus said.

Teachers will submit when they plan to retire, which is irrevocable barring certain circumstances, and will receive a 6% increase in their pay each year for up to three years, according to the contract.

The purpose of these new benefits is to help teachers maximize how much they can take out of the state’s Teacher Retirement System, Ozimek said. For most teachers set to retire in the next couple years, the final average retirement salary is based on the four highest years of pay for a teacher over the last 10 years, according to the system’s website.

The new retirement clause was put in at the request of the teachers, Ozimek said. However, Benrus said it also allows the district to begin looking for newer teachers who aren’t as expensive.

Another change comes from how much teachers are compensated for their “extra duty assignments,” such as participating in district committees or supervising students outside of the classroom.

The previous contract saw teachers receive $28 per hour, assuming the duty lasted more than 15 minutes. That will be upped to $33 per hours for the upcoming 2023-24 school year, and will increase to $34 and $35 over the next two years, respectively, according to the new contract.

Teachers who forfeit their planning or lunch period to cover for another staff member will be paid $28 per class, according to the contract, up from $26 in the previous contract.

Summer school teachers will be paid at a rate of $40 per hour, up from $35, according to the contract.

The district also upped its tuition reimbursement amount for those pursuing higher levels of education and increased the salary for those advancing in their education, according to the contract.

Benefits related to vacation, sick days and other leaves of absence are mostly the same as under the previous agreement, the contracts show.

It will keep us healthy in terms of having good staff members in the building.

—  Matt Benrus, Fox River Grove Middle School teacher and president of the Fox River Grove Education Association, on the new contract

Ozimek said in a news release on Wednesday she was proud of the “collaborative efforts and open dialogue” that led to the contract.

“Our teachers are dedicated professionals who deserve equitable compensation and support for their important work in educating our students,” Ozimek said in the release.

Benrus called the contract Thursday a “win for both sides.” Given a nationwide teacher shortage, Benrus said he thinks this will both retain current teachers and make the district more attractive.

“It will keep us healthy in terms of having good staff members in the building,” Benrus said.