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Dear District 65 Staff, Families, and Community Members:
We know that many of you are interested in the progress we are making in negotiating a contract with our teachers. We began working with a federal mediator on October 5 and will continue to do so for as long as is necessary to reach an agreement with our District 65 teachers. We are committed to staying at the table with the mediator so that she can help both teams prioritize, make tradeoffs, and narrow down remaining issues. We believe this is the only way to move forward with dispatch and remove the uncertainty our teachers and our families are feeling right now by not having a new contract.
Where are we now? The Board very much wants a contract that addresses teacher needs and is one that the district can afford. We missed out on negotiations time during June and July when the DEC team declined to negotiate. In an effort to move us forward, we opened our mediation session on October 5 with an offer to increase planning time from four to five days per week for elementary teachers – something we know has been a DEC priority since the negotiations over the last contract.
We did not do so lightly as the cost to the district, which is facing unprecedented deficits, is approximately $640,000 annually. As proposed, increased planning time would be introduced in year four of a four year agreement (2016-2020). This cost will increase our projected deficits in the coming years which start at $4.5 million in 2017-2018. Yet, if we are able to accrue savings in the initial contract years, we will be in a better position to assume the additional cost for planning time over the longer term of the contract. We made this significant concession to respond to the priorities of D65 teachers who are committed to our children and to the teaching profession. We view the planning time offer as the major next step to settling the contract. In order to do so, we look forward to working with DEC to resolve the remaining issues so we can settle the contract as quickly as possible.
Why is additional planning time so important? This time provides our teachers with more opportunities to work in teams, across content and grade levels, and with their administrators to address the needs of our diverse student body. Additional planning time is not cost neutral, yet it is something that we recognize our teachers consider essential to help them practice their profession in ways that will better support their students.
What comes next? Both bargaining teams met with the mediator on four occasions – October 5, October 11, October 13, and October 14. We scheduled two more sessions after parent/teacher conferences for October 26 and November 3. We are ready to meet thereafter as frequently as possible to reach an agreement with our teachers.
We look forward to the next mediation sessions where we can resolve the outstanding issues. We trust that DEC is also ready to move forward with us to settle the contract. We remain committed to reaching an agreement that honors our teachers and is in the best interest of our children and our schools.
Candance Chow, Board President
Paul Goren, Superintendent of Schools