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Controversy has intensified over the new teachers contract in Palatine-based District 15, with the school board issuing a statement scolding some residents for turning the issue into "something ugly," and critics responding that the board is trying...

Debate intensifies over 10-year teachers contract in Palatine

Controversy has intensified over the new teachers contract in Palatine-based District 15, with the school board issuing a statement scolding some residents for turning the issue into "something ugly," and critics responding that the board is trying...

Debate intensifies over 10-year teachers contract in Palatine

Controversy has intensified over the new teachers contract in Palatine-based District 15, with the school board issuing a statement scolding some residents for turning the issue into "something ugly," and critics responding that the board is trying to divert attention from the labor agreement.

The debate centers around an unprecedented, decade-year contract that the Community Consolidated School District 15 school board approved last month, but has yet to release publicly, saying attorneys are finalizing its language.

Officials calculate it will pay average annual salary increases of about 2.5 percent for the first four years, then 4 percent for the last six years, plus 6 percent raises for four years for teachers who retire early — raises detractors say are unrealistic and unfair to taxpayers.

Residents packed a school board meeting last week, most to criticize the deal, and sometimes the comments were directed at particular staff members.

"At Wednesday's board meeting, you saw the worst. There were more personal attacks than substantive ones. A lot of it was unfair," the school board wrote in a statement released late Friday.

The statement referred to "a small, but well organized group in our community that knows how to get attention. They show up at board meetings, not to address us, but to address the media. ... Keep listening to this group and you will hear blatant anti-teacher, anti-union sentiment pouring from their mouths."

The statement also called out what it referred to as "sexist remarks about male teachers," and board members said they were heckled as they left the meeting.

Taxpayers criticize school board about unusual, 10-year teacher contract Robert McCoppin

Dozens of taxpayers turned out at a School District 15 board meeting Wednesday evening, when several speakers criticized district officials for approving an unusually long, 10-year teachers contract.

Critics said the average raises provided to teachers in the Palatine-based district over the decadelong...

Dozens of taxpayers turned out at a School District 15 board meeting Wednesday evening, when several speakers criticized district officials for approving an unusually long, 10-year teachers contract.

Critics said the average raises provided to teachers in the Palatine-based district over the decadelong...

(Robert McCoppin)

"Many of the comments had little to no bearing on the merits of the contract," the board wrote. "Many of the commentators hurled insults at the Board, Superintendent and school administrators. We were heckled walking out of the building. These type of rants do not show an understanding of the issue; they only show anger."

Two of those who commented defended the contract, prompting the board to tell them, "You are just as important."

The statement did not address any of the criticisms of the contract itself. Superintendent Scott Thompson said officials anticipate releasing the contract next week.

The personal criticisms at the meeting were leveled at Thompson and Lisa Nuss, the former head of the teachers union who became an administrator last year and was part of the negotiating team for the district. Some of those who commented said they considered that a conflict of interest.

Board President Peggy Babcock asked the public not to comment about individuals at the meeting, which prompted some commenters to refer to Nuss as "she who shall not be named."

10-year teacher contract in Palatine short on details, called 'insane' Diane Rado

An unusual proposal came up early in talks over a teacher contract for the sprawling Palatine-area Community Consolidated School District 15: a 10-year contract that would extend to 2026, longer than most educators and administrators had ever heard in contract negotiations.

Superintendent Scott...

An unusual proposal came up early in talks over a teacher contract for the sprawling Palatine-area Community Consolidated School District 15: a 10-year contract that would extend to 2026, longer than most educators and administrators had ever heard in contract negotiations.

Superintendent Scott...

(Diane Rado)

Palatine resident Joe Clark was among the commenters, who noted that even the communist former Soviet Union made only five-year plans. He compared the contract approval to Obamacare: "Let's pass it, then see what's in it."

But Clark said Monday the board's statement was trying to divert the issue to the critics, instead of the particulars of public opposition.

"I think it's just sour grapes," Clark said of the letter. "I haven't heard anybody (from the public) say anything positive about it."

At the meeting, a letter was read from Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy and state Rep. Tom Morrison opposing the contract.

Morrison, a former private school teacher, said Monday it seemed that the board's comments were meant to divert attention from the real issue of what to do about the contract.

"It's meant to disparage those who have legitimate concerns about this contract," he said. "We have very real concerns about the short- and long-term financial impact of this contract. They will have to keep their (teacher) head count lower to pay for these large salary increases. That means, in all likelihood, larger class sizes."

The early retirement program shifts higher costs to the state, which pays teacher pensions, Morrison said, so residents end up paying more in both property taxes for the schools and income taxes for the pensions.

Some significant costs remain unknown, such as health care costs and raises teachers get for continuing education. State lawmakers may choose to cut school funding, limit end-of-career salary increases or shift pension costs back to the schools, Morrison said.

With savings from early retirements, Thompson has estimated that payroll spending will increase less than 1 percent a year over the 10 years. But critics have questioned how he came to that figure and how the district will pay for increases in health care costs and raises for teachers' continuing education.

Thompson said in an email that the board would pass on making further comment on the issue, writing, "I don't think any of the board members want to make this a bigger issue than it needs to be."

Scott Woldman, president of the district's teachers union, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

[email protected]

Twitter @RobertMcCoppin

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