CHAMPAIGN - At a special meeting Friday, Champaign school board members approved a two-year contract that gives educational support personnel 4 percent raises each year.
The contract, which is retroactive to July 1 when the old contract expired, also gives teachers' aides incentives to continue improving their skills, and it gives some workers who could be replaced by contract workers additional protection.
Kathy Vigardt, an attendance supervisor at Garden Hills Elementary School and a member of the negotiating team, said the employees most at risk to be replaced by contract workers include custodians, food service workers and bus employees who wanted extra language included to protect their jobs.
Vigardt said the administration now has the power to take that action if they give union leaders ?timely notification,? but in the new contract they agreed not to use that option.
Insurance benefits were also increased.
The new payments are equal to single-person coverage on a popular HMO plan.
Also, the contract offers employees a $250 bonus if they find people to work as drivers or monitors and those new employees stay on the job at least six months.
?We've always had a problem recruiting drivers and monitors,? Vigardt said.
Union members had hoped to negotiate full benefits for seven-hour employees, who are mostly teachers' aides and are covered up to 80 percent.
That didn't happen, but the administration agreed to give them pay benefits to make further education more attractive.
Vigardt said pay scales have been based on three ?lanes? for aides with high school degrees, with associates' degrees and with bachelor's and master's degrees.
That structure has been reduced to two lanes, employees with a high school education only and employees with advanced education, and the pay differential has been increased from 3 cents to 30 cents.
?It's a good incentive,? Vigardt said.
She said the contract also includes language that allows union representatives to talk to the administration about issues between contracts, a practice usually banned.
Negotiations that had been going on for more than a year bogged down late last year and a mediator was called in.
Earlier this month, teachers, whose negotiations were also stalled, voted to accept a new three-year contract that gives them increased insurance benefits, including dental insurance, and successive raises of 4 percent, 4 percent, and 4.5 percent.
Support staff members voted Jan. 25 to accept their new contract.