CHAMPAIGN - It took Unit 4 teachers less than an hour Friday to resoundingly endorse a three-year contract that gives them 4 percent pay increases the first two years and a 4.5 percent increase the third year.
The contract, which runs through June 30, 2005, also addresses insurance issues, a major bone of contention, by agreeing to pay $257 a month, a payment equal to what coverage costs a single person on a Health Alliance plan. That's up from the district's current single-person payment of $220.
When the votes were in, 485 teachers cast votes in favor of accepting the contract and only 12 teachers were opposed.
?Members were overwhelmingly in favor of it,? said Karen McKenzie, regional representative for the Illinois Federation of Teachers who helped negotiate the settlement.
?Now teachers can get on with the business of teaching,? McKenzie said. ?It's been long in coming, but it's an agreement anyone can be proud of. Now we have a bargaining relationship with the board and the new administration.?
Greg Novak, president of the Champaign Federation of Teachers and a Jefferson Middle School media specialist, said he believes it's a good contract, and he was glad to see such a positive outcome resulting from lengthy negotiations.
?Look at the vote,? Novak said. ?The people said, ?This is good!'?
Teachers, however, who voted at Centennial High School after school Friday, said they can't talk publicly about the terms of the contract until it's approved by the school board, which is scheduled to review it Monday night.
But there were many smiling faces and victory hugs after the vote was completed.
?I feel very good about it,? said David Allen, a band teacher at Centennial High School. ?I feel like with the issues that came up, they treated us like the professionals we are.?
The Champaign Federation of Teachers represents about 750 teachers in the district.
After the teachers' contract expired last summer, negotiations continued without much progress until a mediator was called in late in 2002.
Members of the negotiating team included Laura Keller, Deb Foertsch, George Pellum, Jessica La Rosa, Carol McKinney, Mike Marassa, Laura Albright, Brandt Molitor and Leigh Ann Borkowski.
Now the district must address contract issues of the district's service personnel. Talks with their union, Champaign Educational Services Personnel, also stalled last summer and a mediator was brought in last month.
But this week, union representatives reported progress. Negotiating team member Kathy Vigardt, who works at Garden Hills Elementary School, said significant progress was made at mediation sessions Wednesday, the bargaining team meets with union members today, and another negotiating session is scheduled for next Thursday.