Brookfield Board of Education and the teachers’ union have signed off on a two-year contract extension.
The contract gives the 75 Brookfield Federation of Teachers members 1.5-percent pay hikes in 2021-22, and 2-percent in 2022-23.
While the salary hikes were not built into the most recent five-year budget forecast. “My projection maintains a healthy balance on our five-year forecast projection, with the salary increase,” said district Treasurer Julie Sloan.
“The district is now seeing the benefits of the cost-saving measures enacted by the former administration,” Sloan said. “Our financial position is stable.”
The school will negotiate this year with the Brookfield Association of School Employees, the non-teaching union, but those talks have not begun, Sloan said.
By contract, the teachers’ union is supposed to issue a notice of its desire to negotiate after March 1 of the contract’s final year, but officials had met earlier to talk about the times of meetings and other procedural issues, said union President Mary Arp.
“We just kind of started having a conversation about a contract extension, and we went from there,” she said. “When we started having our conversations, we became aware of how close we were, both sides, in agreements.”
Within a month, the two sides had reached a tentative agreement, and the union ratified it by unanimous vote – almost all union members were present for the vote – on March 1, Arp said. The school board approved the contract March 17.
The current three-year contract expires June 29. The extension lasts through the 2022-23 school year.
“This was one of the easier negotiation periods that we’ve had,” Arp said. “We have rolled contracts over before in the past, but it’s been years.
“I think it happened this year because, through the pandemic, we really developed a good working relationship between the administration and the union, and I feel like the communication lines were open. Everybody was listening, and so, when we sat down to talk about it, we thought it was in everybody’s best interest to approach it in this manner.”
In the current contract, the two sides had set up a labor-management committee, which proved instrumental in fostering good relations for a smooth contract negotiation, Arp said.
“As group, we decided that any problems can certainly be worked through there,” she said. “And, so, we felt that there wasn’t anything language-wise that we needed to address immediately, and any problems that would come up, that committee, we worked really well together.”
The contract altered language concerning part-time employees, but the major change is the salary schedule.
The starting salary for a teacher right out of college with a bachelor’s degree is $32,211 this year. That goes up to $32,695 in 2021-22, and $33,349 in 2022-23.
The salary for a teacher at the top step in terms of service and who has a master’s degree plus 45 hours of continuing education is $76,986 this year, $78,140 in 2021-22, and $79,703 in 2022-23.
The current average teacher salary is $51,314, Sloan said.
Arp said she is relieved that her summer will be free of contract bargaining.
“When Mr. Gibson was talking at the board meeting, before they voted, about all of the things that are gonna be happening this summer, with the construction and the summer school, and I kept thinking, ‘But, not negotiations, because we’ve managed to come to an agreement that both sides are very satisfied with,’” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”
“Thank you, guys, for taking care of our students for the past year, year and a half of craziness,” said board member Ronda Bonekovic.
“You’ve done a great job,” added Jerry Necastro, noting the teachers have had to serve students who are in school, at home, or both at the same time.