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Contract Upgrades

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Contract Upgrades

Molly Bartlett, Editor-in-Chief

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With recent events of the district superintendent Jim McKay releasing news to retire within the next four years, district salaries were on the minds of many.

By the fourth and final year of his contract before retirement, McKay will be making $238,000 as the result of a 6 percent raise he received from the board of education last year.

Additionally, according to a Chicago Tribune article from May 2016, “Based on numbers supplied by the state pension system, this bonus will give him $3,152,055 in accumulated benefits, instead of the $2,893,231 he would have gotten previously.”

This information alone probably would not have raised many questions, but in December 2016, the Daily Herald published an article ranking teachers’ salaries. According to the article, District 117 teachers have the second lowest average salary, only slightly higher than Grant District 124.

McKay contends this is in exchange for other contract freedoms. Lakes Community High School Principal, Dave Newberry, explains that the teachers have also received the same raise.

“Part of Mr. McKay’s raise is that 6 percent you’re going to retire and you get 6 percent, 6 percent, 6 percent, 6 percent, four sixes they call it. That’s in the teachers’ contract. The teachers get the exact same thing,” Newberry said.*

The seemingly large amount of money McKay will be receiving is not out of the ordinary. The school board can award any percentage up to 6 percent without raising financial penalties if they are happy with the work of the current superintendent.

This is not a unique situation in our district, afforded to only Mr. McKay, but is also available to all of our teachers and is covered under the collective bargaining agreement. I should also point out that Mr. McKay’s salary is substantially below that of the superintendent salaries at our neighboring districts Grant, Round Lake, Grayslake and Warren,” D117 board member Ronald Vickers said.

Data from Illinois Report Card shows District 117 teachers have been paid below the state average in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 over a five-year trend. The ten-year trend reveals that before 2012, Lakes teacher were paid above the state average for five consecutive years.

According to District 117 Superintendent James McKay, the new teacher contract that will be put into action next school year should address some of the concerns about teacher salaries through other contract compensations.

“I also think it is important to consider that compensation is more than just salaries; it includes working conditions, health care, tuition reimbursement and pre-retirement benefits,” McKay said. “I believe our most recent negotiations between the Teachers’ Association and the Board of Education were very positive which resulted in a nearly unanimous acceptance of the new contract by the Association. Fortunately, we did not have the contentious negotiations that often result in teacher strikes and interruptions in student learning.”

It takes around a year and a half to create and publish a new teacher contract. The union works through the year and over the summer to agree on a contract that benefits both the district and the teachers.

“Meeting after meeting, sometimes it takes 16 different bargaining sessions; sometimes it takes 12. It just depends. Ultimately, we reach a tentative agreement and then both sides go back to their respective bodies and ask for a vote, and, if both sides vote, then the contract is ratified and signed off by the union president and the board of education president, and we have a new contract,” Bryan Plinske, English teacher and union negotiations team member, said.

District 117 teachers will be receiving a 4 percent raise steadily over the next four years with a 3.75 percent to finish off the fifth year. This is lower than the earlier stated 6 percent that Newberry said would be taking place.

“I think the school board and our association and negotiation team took this year and paid really close attention to salary, and I think in the new contract that is evident,” Assistant Principal for Student Services, Rebecca Holst, said.

However, the teachers who decide to publish an irrevocable retirement claim will receive a 2 percent raise to match McKay’s 6 percent raise.

“That’s not 6 percent on top of the 4 percent. That’s 6 percent total. In this contract, if somebody were to put forth their letter, they would receive an additional 2 percent for four of those years and then 2.25 for that last year and that’s by state law, state mandate they say that no one can receive more than a 6 percent raise without incurring a penalty and, of course, the district is not going to incur that penalty, so it’s capped by state law,” Plinske said.

In the school’s history, Lakes has lost multiple quality teachers to higher salaries, among other things, in bigger schools. The new contract offers the district high hopes to be one of the reasons those losses slow down or stop altogether.

“We’ve lost teachers over the years because of salary. When you can go to Libertyville or Deerfield or schools like that and make ten or fifteen thousand dollars more a year, we get hard hit and lose some good teachers. That right there sends a message to me because I hate to lose the good teachers,” Newberry said.  

When asked if he thought the current pay scale affects the quality of the teachers at Lakes, McKay replied, “No, I think our greatest challenge to attracting talent to our District is our geographical location. We are located in the northern most region of Illinois and most people want to work and live in communities closer to a metropolitan area.”

Whether it is salary or geographical location, the school board acknowledges the difficulty in attracting and retaining quality teachers to surrounding, wealthier schools in our area.

Our board recognizes the competitive disadvantage that our community has compared to some of the more wealthier communities in the county.  We strive to make the work environment as rewarding as possible,” Vickers said. “Professional development opportunities, student achievement committee work, curriculum development and strategy sharing are some of the things we have in place that hopefully provide intangible benefits to our teachers.”


*UPDATE: The four sixes only apply to teachers that have announced their retirement. It does not apply to all teachers in the school.

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Contract Upgrades