After months of negotiation between officials and the teachers’ union, both parties agreed on a tentative contract Monday morning.
"Our teachers can confidently start school this week, and our students can begin the school year as planned on Tuesday, Sept. 4," board president Katie Bailey said in a press release from the district.
Details of the tentative agreement cannot be released until it is ratified by the teachers’ union, according to District 65 spokesperson Pat Markham. If the union approves it, the contract will then go before the board for a vote in September, she said.
The District 65 Educator’s Council (DEC) and the administration have been negotiating on a new contract since March, and agreed to bring in a federal mediator this summer. Meetings with the mediator ; the current teachers' contract expires on the first day of school.
Negotiations were held up over the union's opposition to the district’s plan to balance the 2012-13 budget by reducing staff positions, according to union president Jean Luft. Last week, the board that would leave nine vacancies or retirements unfilled, reassign 22.5 positions and eliminate 4.5 temporary positions and two fine arts teachers.
The district is already sharing some art and music teachers among schools, but the proposed cuts would mean that every art teacher travels to a different school at least once a week. Each art teacher would have seven 40-minute classes per day, instead of six, meaning students would have the same amount of time with teachers, but teachers would have shorter planning periods.
Representatives of the teachers' union gathered outside the board meeting last week to , calling for "adequate planning time" and "a fair contract." The board voted unanimously to approve the budget, however, including the reductions to fine arts staff.
Along with board president Katie Bailey, Supt. Hardy Murphy expressed satisfaction with the new contract.
"I believe we have negotiated a tentative agreement with the District Educators’ Council that is fair to our teachers, fair to our community, and fair to our students," Supt. Hardy Murphy said in a press release from the district.
A member of the teachers’ union could not immediately be reached for comment.