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The Evanston Township High School Board of Education approved a new four-year teachers’ contract that keeps salaries and benefits competitive with neighboring districts and still allows ETHS to maintain a balanced budget for the next four years without resorting to budget cuts.

The teachers’ union overwhelmingly ratified the contract on May 21.

The agreement, which takes effect July 1, 2008, ties teacher salary increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the next four years.

Under state tax-cap laws, the CPI determines the amount of revenue school districts can raise from property taxes. Specifically, teachers will receive a 3-percent raise in year one; a 3.75-percent in year two; a 2- to 4-percent plus .75-percent in year 3; and a 2- to 4-percent in year four, depending on the CPI.

William Stafford, ETHS’s chief financial officer, said this salary structure is similar to that of other North Shore high school districts such as New Trier and Stevenson. ETHS teacher salaries will start at $47,589 for new, inexperienced teachers (up from $45,202) and top out at $107,593 for those with graduate degrees and 20 years of service.

In addition, over the next two years, close to 14 percent of the ETHS faculty will retire under an early retirement incentive in the current contract that expires in June. Toya Campbell, ETHS human resources director, said, “This agreement keeps salaries and benefits very competitive at a time when we’ll have to do a lot to recruit and retain teachers. We all know there is a direct correlation between having an outstanding faculty and high student achievement.”

ETHS has experienced several years of fiscal disruption due to the cumulative negative affects of property tax caps on District 202 revenues, fluctuating interest rates that impact the District’s return on investments, and declining federal aid, among other factors. Since 2004, ETHS has cut approximately $3.85 million in educational programs and physical plant costs to bring the budget into balance.

“Both sides were aware of the need to be fiscally responsible,” said ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, adding, “We reached an agreement that is affordable and within the resources of the District. This contract positions us to maintain a balanced budget for the next four years without further cuts.”

David Futransky, president of the teachers’ council union, said, “Teachers are concerned with the rising cost of living, including the price of gas and food. We are comfortable with a fair economic package that recognizes the efforts our faculty puts forth to assist the students of ETHS.”