Sycamore School District 427 Board approves 1-year salary freeze for teachers

By STEPHANIE MARKHAM - smarkham@shawmedia.com Published: Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017 8:24 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017 8:26 a.m. CDT
District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman — Shaw Media file photo

SYCAMORE – Sycamore teachers will not see any raises nor take any pay cuts in the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

The Sycamore School District 427 Board voted, 6-0, Monday to approve a one-year teachers’ contract that includes a hard salary freeze after a 15-minute closed session. Board member Steve Nelson was absent.

“It’s a very difficult time,” board President Jim Dombek said. “[Teachers] know that; we know that, and so we’re just glad that we could see this contract through, and we’ll hope for better times down the road.”

The current four-year teachers’ contract began in the 2013-14 school year and is set to expire Aug. 18. It included an experience-based “step increase” in the final three years of the contract, as well as base salary increases in the final two years.

Superintendent Kathy Countryman said negotiations with the Sycamore Education Association began in April and were “very collaborative.”

“It’s an attribute to our teachers that together we can work to look at how to get things accomplished,” she said. “We’re keeping kids in mind first, and for them to agree to this is a real compliment to them.”

Countryman said the “unknowns” when it comes to state and federal funding were factors in the negotiations, particularly the decision to make the contract last for only one year.

“We have not received any indication of what any federal title money will look like for this year, “ she said.

The district is still owed about $1.4 million of its $12 million state allocation from last year, and a present funding model for K-12 education is yet to be approved in Springfield.

Despite this uncertainty, District 427 is set to have a balanced budget for the 2017-18 year, Countryman said. This comes at the tail end of a three-year plan to balance the budget and reduce deficit spending, which included teacher and staff layoffs.

Under the new contract, a beginning teacher with no experience would receive a salary of $37,170 for the year, without taking retirement benefits into account, Countryman said. Health insurance premiums also do not change in the contract, she said.

Dombek said he was pleased with the professionalism of the teachers during negotiations.

“My hope is that in cooperating together with the teachers union and the district that we can keep an even keel, keep things balanced and keep providing a great educational experience to all of our students,” he said.

School will be back in session for Sycamore students Aug. 16.