The issues which created an impasse in a new contract between the Riley Consolidated District 18 School Board and the Riley Teachers Association were resolved with both sides in agreement on dollar amounts for educational course work and increases in salary, retroactive to the 2018-19 start of the school year.
The Riley School Board approved the measures through a unanimous 7-0 vote, during their Dec. 19 business session. The teachers association followed suit with an affirmative vote, one week later. Riley teachers had technically been working without a contract since last Aug. 13, and were being governed by the previous accord for payment and benefits, by default. Both sides had been meeting on a regular basis with an eye toward resolution of their differences.
“The term of the new contract will carry for one year, with the retroactive start date to deadline with a new contract prior to the first day of school in Aug. 2019,” said Riley District Superintendent Christine Conklin. “With changes in state law, there will always be grammar and wording that no one expected. Everyone put their hearts into it, and got it done, so during the next discussions we are aware of the language. Everyone will have the facts needed to negotiate in good faith.”
One sticking point revolved around recent amendments initiated by the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, and how they would be implemented within the scope of the new contract. Richelle Lagerstrom, the teachers association’s Co-President, had said the need for re-organizing was evident due to the changes made regarding their pensions.
The TRS, a state-monitored agency, oversees an “off-the-top” set percentage parceled to pension benefits, directly from an educator’s paycheck. The Illinois State Legislature altered the pension code to mandate that all retiring Tier 1 members are offered a one-time irrevocable change in the automatic annual increase to their TRS pensions, as well as an accelerated pension benefit payment.
Also, the “threshold” for employee contributions on year-to-year salary increases was reduced from 6 percent to 3 percent, when salary increases affect the member’s initial pension. The question was enfolded in the main contract negotiation issue being individual pay scale changes, “lane changes,” through advanced education, which had not been applied, as in previous contracts. Lagerstrom had noted the old contract wording negatively impacted the ability for the upgrade in pay scale.
At a Nov. 19 school board meeting, audience attendees had expressed support for the concern of teachers who had pursued advanced education and not received pay increases, as well as their commitment through out-ofpocket expenses for classroom supplies that are not reimbursed. The concurrent theme raised was that the situation harmed the “family environment” and relationships between the teachers, students, and community.
'The contract was about salaries at the end, negotiating back and forth, the percentage for educational units and the dollar amounts,” said Conklin. “There was a 3 percent increase, and extra for teachers that took additional course work…and that’s pretty much where we were. When discussions begin again for the contract next Aug., we will all have the information to negotiate in good faith.”X\
Riley Consolidated District 18 is a union school serving 298 students with a teacher-to-student ratio of 13:1, which is significantly below the state average of 16:1.