Catlin school district, teachers union to meet with mediator

Catlin school district, teachers union to meet with mediator

CATLIN — Superintendent Gary Lewis said this week that representatives from the district and the teachers' union are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator on Nov. 15 to discuss terms of a new contract.

The most recent one-year contract between the district and the 44 members of the Catlin Faculty Organization expired on June 30. The two sides have met five times since July to discuss a new contract. The Nov. 15 meeting will be the second to involve a federal mediator.

The sides have been trading proposals and counterproposals since July regarding financial matters and language changes to the contract, and last Oct. 22. Lewis said the district's latest proposal included a 1.75 percent salary increase for all the teachers for this year and for the next two years.

The district initially offered the union members a "soft freeze," which would keep the current salary schedule and the base pay at its current level, but which would have provided raises based on teachers' longevity with the district — an average of a 1.35 percent salary increase for each teacher.

Lezlie Holman, the president and chief negotiator for the union, has said that teachers' salaries in Catlin are — on average — the third-lowest among 12 school districts in Vermilion County. She has said that she wants to see the whole salary schedule overhauled so it is more fair to the teachers, and to see other language changes that would create a new teacher-evaluation tool, and improve the district schools, such as upgrading the science labs and providing students with more access to the high school library.

In other business, Lewis said he was talking with a colleague in the Effingham school district who pulled out of the National School Lunch Program in order to gain more freedom in lunch offerings.

Lewis said the program's rules are very restrictive, and he has heard multiple complaints from students and parents about the new lunch offerings.

"I want to explore options to offer lunches that are still healthy, but which the students will eat," he said.

Although the district is not required to follow the national program, the state reimburses districts that do follow it — about half the cost of each full-price meal, and almost the whole cost of meals for students who receive free lunches because of their household income. Lewis said lunch prices may have to increase to offset those lost state reimbursements.

The board also learned that both Catlin Grade School and Catlin High School failed to meet adequate yearly progress in reading in 2012, and Catlin High also failed to meet adequate yearly progress in math.

Lewis said that students in both schools came close to meeting the goals. Catlin Grade School had met AYP last year, and Catlin High School met AYP in math.

"This only reflects how our students performed on one test last year, but I don't like that we slipped," Lewis said.

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