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The Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board and the Teachers’ Council (TC) representing the ETHS faculty have reached an agreement on a four-year contract. The District 202 Board of Education approved the contract in a 5-0 vote Monday night. The Teachers’ Council membership ratified the contract last week with an 88% approval on June 6, 2012.

The contract with the Evanston Township High School Teachers’ Council, which represents 252 members, contains salary increases, no change to the current faculty workforce, and a wellness component that will help address future health care costs. The contract covers a period of July 1, 2012–June 30, 2016 and requires shared sacrifices by the district and its faculty in order to control growth in district costs, given the current harsh fiscal environment. The contract uses a progressive growth model that allows the district to remain fiscally responsible.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon acknowledged the cooperation and collaboration that occurred during the negotiation process as well as the importance of this agreement: “This four-year contract reflects the hard work and commitment of the two negotiating teams to construct and agree on a fair and affordable settlement during tight economic times while preserving our acclaimed faculty and highly-prized educational programs and curricular offerings that are vital to keeping ETHS ranked among the top schools in the nation.”

The first year of the salary schedule will be frozen at the 2011-12 wages with no step increases linked to years of experience. Faculty will receive a one-time payment of $1,500. In year two, faculty will receive 1.0% increase to the base of the salary schedule, plus step. The contract specifies more salary growth in the last two years – 50% of Consumer Price Index (CPI), plus step in year three and 75% of CPI, plus step in year four. Combined, the increases provide an average 2.67 percent annual salary adjustment over four years, which approximates the historical and projected cost of living.

The two negotiations teams comprised of Teachers’ Council members and District 202 administrators representing the School Board, focused on crafting a contract that is competitive with other high-performing school districts. Bill Farmer, president of Teachers’ Council at ETHS, served as their lead negotiator, and the TC team members were Pam Baumgartner, Scott Bowyer, Alex Brown, Darlene Gordon, Dale Leibforth, Lisa Oberman, Nicole Roubekas, and Jeff Simon. The School Board’s negotiation team was led by Toya Campbell, Director of Human Resources, and Bill Stafford, Chief Financial Officer, and members Eric Witherspoon, Oscar Hawthorne, Pete Bavis, Paula Frohman, Yolanda Hardy, Mary Rodino and Jim Zuehl.

“I believe that we were able to reach an agreement that honors both the tremendous work of our talented faculty and enables the district to maintain a fiscally responsible budget over the next several years given the current economic realities facing our state and the community,” said Farmer.

Dr. Witherspoon recognized that both parties understood the economic realities at the local and state level and agreed to a progressive approach in order to help control cost increases. He said the new contract “will help keep costs at or below inflation,” and will help the district “maintain a world-class faculty to preserve the educational standards that make ETHS one of the top high schools in the country.” Currently, 234 out of 252 ETHS teachers have advanced degrees: 93 percent have Master’s degrees, which includes 11 staff members with doctoral degrees. Witherspoon noted that the district will continue to focus on collaborative efforts to help teachers achieve their professional goals and reward high performing faculty members.

During the negotiation process, both sides saw an opportunity to establish a new innovative wellness component that will help address future health care costs. “A joint committee of employees and administrators will meet during the 2012-13 school year to examine programs and services that help support healthy lifestyles and increase awareness that leads to healthier decision-making,” said Campbell.

Mark Metz, president of the District 202 School Board, said that Teachers’ Council representatives were willing to work with the district for a deal that was beneficial for everyone in the community: “The Board takes seriously our responsibility to be fiscally responsible while at the same time respecting our accomplished faculty and maintaining the excellence that is the hallmark of ETHS. This contract strikes the right balance.”