ROXANA — The School Board will meet March 30 with representatives of the Roxana Education Association in an effort to resolve an impasse over a labor contract.
The School Board sent parents a letter Monday in an attempt to explain the negotiations with the teachers’ union. The old union contract expired June 30, 2014, and negotiations since then have included five sessions with a federal mediator.
The main points of contention are salary increases and procedures for filling vacancies. Union representatives say they want preference given to district employees when the district is filling a vacant position.
The letter is available at http://www.roxanaschools.org/files/_CXD0A_/8d46732854a665253745a49013852ec4/Parent_Letter.pdf.
Text of March 23 letter to parents
Dear Parents and Community Members,
The Board of Education (Board) has been in negotiations with the Roxana Education Association (REA) for almost a year.
In addition to its bargaining sessions, the Board and the REA have participated in five sessions with a federal mediator. The Board was disappointed to learn that on March 13, 2015, the REA voted not to accept the board’s March 9 offer. On March 16, the board received notification of the REA’s 10-Day Notice of Intent to Strike. The board is scheduled to meet with the teachers’ union team on March 30. We hope this impasse will be mutually resolved without a strike in our district. There have been many questions and the purpose of this letter is to provide facts and explain why the board believes the March 9 offer is fair, reasonable, and protects the best interest of the entire school community.
The district is proposing a four or five-year agreement that will run through the end of 2018 or 2019. The board’s March 9 offer can be found on the district’s website at http://www.roxanaschools.org. While many items have been resolved, there are two major issues remaining: teacher salary and process for filling vacancies.
What is the board’s March 9 offer for teacher salary increases?
The board’s offer gives every teacher a minimum of a 3 percent increase each year for five years. This is in addition to salary increases based on years of experience, “steps.” With the steps individual teachers will receive salary increases ranging from 3 percent to 7.26 percent with the average totaling more than 4 percent.
In addition to base increase and step increases, individual teachers are also rewarded for furthering their education. In the board’s March 9 offer, the highest individual teacher increase for 2014-15 is 11.53 percent with continued education.
The Roxana School District is proud to have a competitive teacher salary schedule that allows the district to attract and retain teachers. The district is fortunate to be able to provide the following:
• highest teacher starting salary in both Madison County and the South Central Conference
• highest teacher career top earning in both Madison County and the conference
• one of the shortest step schedules in county and conference, meaning it takes the fewest years (15 years) to reach top salary, and a teacher earns maximum salary longer
• higher teacher raises than the growth of inflation (Consumer Price Index)
• teacher raises above those of other area school districts
The board has offered what we believe are fair increases that surpass the area market.
What are the proposed changes in the process for filling vacancies?
Through many years of negotiations, the teachers’ union has maintained the ability to fill newly created or unfilled positions (vacancies) based on years of service in the district (seniority). In the Roxana School District, when there is a newly created position or an unfilled position (for example, a retirement), the position is automatically filled by the most senior tenured teacher in the district who has the required certification and wants the position. The Board of Education and administration have desired the right to select the best candidate to fill vacancies but have not been able to negotiate that right. The only time the district played any role in filling a vacancy was if no tenured certified staff wanted the position.
In 2011, the Illinois General Assembly passed landmark reform (SB 7, 105 ILCS 5/24-1.5), which included a prohibition on school districts filling new or vacant positions solely on the basis of seniority. This new legislation is in direct conflict with the old REA contract language that was grandfathered under the law until the contract recently expired. Seniority in the district is not to be considered when filling new or vacant positions, unless all other factors are determined to be equal.
The practical effect of the legislation is that the Board of Education and administration now have the legal right and authority to select the best candidate from internal and external applicants to fill vacancies. The actual legislation can be found on the district website.
The board’s compromise
The board values the years of service of all employees and is committed to ensuring that the best candidate from all prospective candidates is selected to give students the best educational opportunity possible and to improve our students’ academic performance. During the negotiations process, the board gave many concessions on the issue of filling vacancies well beyond what the law outlines. In the last proposal, the board conceded to only consider internal candidates for a vacancy if there are at least three qualified teachers who apply. Such language is limiting to the board and prohibits the consideration of highly qualified external candidates, but in a spirit of compromise, the proposal was made. The language the Board has proposed goes well beyond the intent of the law.
The process for involuntary transfers has not changed in the current proposal. If there is an excess of teachers in a grade level or department and there is a vacant position, the teacher with the least seniority will be assigned to the vacant position.
Do administrators and support staff receive higher salary increases than teachers?
Administrators have historically received the same percentage increase in salary as the teacher total package increase for the respective year. Unlike teachers, the administration does not have annual built-in steps or opportunities for increases due to continuing education, thus they are extended the total package percentage. For example, in 2013-2014, the total package for the REA was 3.9 percent. This created individual teacher increases ranging from 2.5 percent to 6.74 percent with step and even higher increases with continuing education. Consequently, administrators were extended the 3.9 percent average. Recently, support staff has been extended average total package increases in the range of 4 percent. Likewise, the board’s March 9 offer to teachers averages in the 4 percent range for total package. The board is very committed to treating all employees in a fair and consistent manner.
How does administrative compensation compare?
Teachers are contracted for nine months. By comparison, administrators are contracted for 10-, 10 1/2- and 12-month contracts. Based on Roxana School District’s most recent Teacher Retirement Report, there are teachers whose creditable earnings exceed the creditable earnings of 70 percent of the administrative team, when earnings are adjusted for the difference in the months worked. Likewise, the district did a comprehensive salary study of administrator compensation in Madison County in 2012-13. At that time, 80 percent of our administrative total compensation packages were in the bottom half with our superintendent ranking 11 out of 13 (only Wood River-Hartford and Venice were lower).
How do district finances impact negotiations?
The current property tax settlement agreement with the local refinery provides the district a revenue source that will remain relatively flat, while expenses continue to grow. The district has a financial plan to maintain programs for students and minimize deficit spending in the latter years of the refinery agreement. However, there are additional financial risks due to the possibility of the state shifting the pension costs to local districts and the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1, which would change the state funding formula. The board must maintain overall fiscal responsibility going forward.
The Board of Education and REA have been negotiating for almost a year. The Board is willing to continue to negotiate in good faith and is committed to giving students the best educational opportunities while valuing the contributions of all employees. It is imperative that the board continues to balance salary increases with many other important considerations including property tax relief, low class sizes, student programs, professional development, 1:1 technology, and facility updates.
Board of Education, Roxana Community Unit School District No. 1