Kewanee Education Association ratifies new contract

Kewanee teachers voted Monday to ratify a new contract with Dist. 229 schools that reflects a an annual 4 percent raise for certified staff for each of three years of the deal.

The district’s school board, which met Monday night, did not discuss the deal but would have to approve it for it to take effect. 

The two sides had negotiated through a mediation process over the summer after the contract expired in July. The last negotiation process dragged on for two years.

“The KEA made many gains,” said Ruth Kapcinskas, president of the Kewanee Education Association, the district’s teachers union, noting the the vote to accept the contract was close at 94-66.

Also in the tentative contract is a proposed $1 per hour raise for certified staff, also in each year of the three-year contract.

Superintendent Chris Sullens could not be reached in time to comment on this story.

Kapacinskas said while the union did improve its position on immediate monetary issues, it continues to experience a “soft freeze” wherein the “step” system between salary levels will remain unchanged.

“We also negotiated a longevity clause for the 20-plus teachers that are already bunched into cell one of the salary schedule because of the prior contract’s soft freeze,” she said. “Our proposal to recognize years of experience of our non-certified members in a similar way was rejected by the district.”

Despite the contract’s approval by the KEA, Kapacinskas said members continue to express concern over the district’s working environment as well as failed entreaties to administrators and the school board to open better communication lines.

She said the “no” voters were not just voting against the new contract proposal, but were prepared to take action if it failed.

“I think 66 is a pretty significant number of employees who were prepared to vote ‘yes’ on a strike authorization vote, if the contract ratification had failed,” Kapcinskas said.

She said the KEA will actively be recruiting school board candidates for the spring election that are more willing to be engaged in the education process. She said a recent effort by members to sit down one-on-one with board members was rebuffed.

“Those never happened,” she said.

via Kewanee Star Courier

November 17, 2020 at 06:10PM

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