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Measures to attract new teachers as well as keep current ones are part of a new, two-year contract ratified by the Bement school board and its teachers union last week.
The result of a single day of what was termed “compact bargaining” on April 3, the agreement that goes into effect for the 2017-18 school year includes provisions for possible hiring bonuses when it becomes difficult to fill a teacher vacancy.
Piatt County school districts have had a hard time filling some openings, most notably in the area of high school science. That is a direct result of colleges graduating fewer teachers, including a 40 percent drop at Illinois State University over the past six years.
For smaller districts like Bement, which had a K-12 fall enrollment of 295, getting quality instructors can be a challenge.
Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said the new Bement contract also includes a one-time $500 bonus for teachers who have been in the district 10 years, and $1,000 for those hitting the 20-year mark.
“We’re trying to do two things. Trying to attract good staff and trying to keep good staff,” said Greenwood. “We’re just trying to recruit them and keep them.”
Teachers will also net pay raises of 2.59 and 2.63 percent the next two years. When health insurance contributions are included, those numbers are 2.76 and 2.78 percent.
The contract was approved by both the 29-member Bement Education Association and the Bement school board on April 12. BEA vice president Andrew Brown said he was pleased with the compact bargaining model, and felt it worked well for both sides.
“Working that way, I think both sides ended up being more pragmatic in order to come to common ground,” said Brown, which he said was “overwhelmingly” approved by union members.
He termed a $400 increase in base pay in each year of the agreement one of the biggest wins for the teachers, “which hopefully makes us more competitive with neighboring districts and benefits all our members.”
“We were very pleased with the speedy process and glad to have a new contract before school is dismissed for the summer,” added BEA President Sheryl McKibben.
Other contract language changes include paying teachers $15 if they cover another class during a prep period or if they serve as a substitute lunchroom or playground supervisor; the addition of a $250 perfect attendance bonus; an increase in the school district’s contribution to staff health insurance premiums (a $25 increase each of the two years), and increasing the stipend for cross country and golf coaches as well as the two prom sponsors.
“We’re pretty solid, and it was a good negotiation,” said Greenwood of the face-to-face method of bargaining. “You have good members on both sides, and that’s what made the difference.”
“Personally, myself and the negotiating team (McKibben, Brown, treasurer Brittany Taylor, and Angie Corum, Kraig Rogers and Stephanie Eccles) feel like we got a pretty good deal overall that takes care of our members, but also keeps in mind the situation the district and state are in financially,”