Education

School Board approves contract extension

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 10, 2020 10:20 am Updated: Feb. 11, 2020 3:19 pm

QUINCY -- The Quincy School Board approved a conditional two-year contract extension Monday morning with the Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel.

Board members voted 5-0, with Richard McNay and Jim Whitfield absent, on a resolution extending the collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2023 if voters approve the March 17 referendum for a 53-cent increase in the school district's education fund.

"It's a contract with a condition that has to be met before it becomes effective," School Board Attorney David Penn said. "If the referendum didn't pass, we would remain in the current contract until the end of June 2021. If it does pass, the contract is extended."

The extension provides significant raises to Quincy Public Schools staff in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years and prepares the district to meet the state-mandated $40,000 minimum teacher salary by the 2023-24 school year and $15 minimum wage by Jan. 1, 2025.

The extension makes the Quincy school district "more competitive in western Illinois and in Illinois," Superintendent Roy Webb said. "It kind of is an example of the way the board and our team are really working together as one now. Extending it for two years is a great example of the trust they have in each other and working together."

The salary schedules under the contract extension do not offer an across-the-board percentage increase, but "a fairly consistent amount across the board," Webb said, with higher percentages at entry level and lower experience levels "as those people needed to be more competitive plus we needed to get the $40,000 (minimum teacher salary) and $15 minimum wage. It might have compressed a little bit at the top, but the amounts are fairly similar."

The extension, for example, calls for a starting salary for certified staff of $36,935 in 2021-22 and $38,335 in 2022-23, compared to $35,535 in the current contract for 2020-21, with "longevity stipends" given at three levels -- $900 at Level 15, $1,100 at Level 20 and $1,600 at Level 25 -- and a 6% "longevity increase" at Level 31.

Salary details vary by subgroup covered under the contract extension -- certified staff, Head Start teachers, special education paraeducators, school support personnel, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, security guards, administrative assistant and clerical.

Food service workers, for example, will see the starting salary change from $9.95 in 2020-21 to $12 in 2021-22 and $13 in 2022-23, while paraeducators with no degree will see the starting salary improve from $10.11 in 2020-21 to $12.01 in 2021-22 and $13.02 in 2022-23.

"As an executive board, we feel like it's a fair contract. It gets us where we need to be and also has things in there to say thank you to people who have been there a long time," QF Co-President Brandi Many said. "It's fair to all parties, not just new people."

Language and health care provisions do not change under the contract extension.

After discussion about the possibility of a contract extension for a couple of months, the School Board and QF leadership signed a tentative agreement on Jan. 30.

QF membership then voted online "overwhelmingly in favor" of the extension, Many said. "People are seeing that the board is invested not only in them but in education in Quincy and bettering our education in our schools. We're getting a team collaboration for the first time in a long time."

But if the referendum does not pass, the school district will have to go back to the drawing board to fund the state mandates while trying to address salary concerns for current staff -- a task district officials say will be difficult while maintaining what the district now has.

Many sees the referendum and the contract extension encompassing the excitement in the district to move forward to create a positive environment for kids in Quincy.

"It's going to be very important that we come with our voter bloc just to show that we value education in Quincy just as much as everyone else," Many said. "We're all working on the same page to get things better in Quincy."

School Board members in December adopted a resolution placing the tax increase on the ballot to generate an estimated $5.3 million in additional annual revenue in the school district's largest operating fund.

District officials say an increase is needed now to meet needs of both students and community and new unfunded state mandates boosting the minimum wage and minimum teacher salary.

Quincy voters never have approved an increase in the education fund, set at $1.84 by the state in 1988.