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The Forest Park School board and teachers signed a collective bargaining agreement at the October 13 school board meeting, marking the first update to the agreement in five years.

Forest Park Superintendent Randy Tinder was pleased to see the teachers’ sign the four-year contract considering some changes to Illinois state law since the last agreement.

“I have had to negotiate a contract every year since 1983, but this is my last I because I am retiring in June of 2007,” he said. “While this contract was more involved than in the past because it involved retirement and end-of-career bonuses, the process still went well and I am pleased with the final outcome…I think the contract is a good and fair representation of the needs of the teaching staff and the school district, he said.”

Tinder added that the negotiation process went as smoothly as it did largely because of the referendum voters passed in 2004, which eliminated the need for budget cuts.

Teachers will enjoy a 4.5 percent increase in salary over 2003-2004 salary. So, for example, a first-year teacher with a Bachelor of Arts degree who made $29,000 for the 2004-2005 school year will now make $30,450 in 2005-2006.

As stated, there were some changes in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) pension law. The maximum a retiring teacher can collect is now 20 percent of their salary from their last year. Teachers were able to collect as much as 35 percent in the past, but the school district had to incur penalties based on a change to the early retirement option (ERO) as part of the TRS. This new agreement streamlines the process and caps a successful negotiating process, according to Tinder.

“We met five or six times because this was a much more complicated process than recent years,” Tinder said. Plus, since the last agreement, our teaching staff had changed by about 70 percent, which meant their priorities had changed dramatically as well.”

School safety and comprehensive
crisis management program

Also discussed at the meeting were the district school safety drill program and comprehensive safety and crisis management program. Though the state minimum requires only three fire drills per year, Tinder said most buildings in the district hold six drills a year.

“We are also required to request the fire department come out and observe at least one fire drill to help us identify and problems,” he said. “We just had a drill on Friday at Garfield. The fire department was there and made some suggestions, but all in all they were very happy with the way we conducted the drill.”

The safety and management program also dictates that the district is required to coordinate meetings with the police and fire departments to review their emergency plans, according to Tinder. The schools are also required to have an automatic external defibrillator (AED’s) in each school in the district.

Garapolo Resigns

A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to acknowledging the resignation of Marilyn Garapolo, current president of the school board. Garapolo will be stepping down as board president November 9.

“It really was a tough decision to say goodbye,” Garapolo said. “My husband and I will be packing up our stuff November 8 and moving to Dwight, Illinois. It is only 72 miles southwest, so I am sure we will visit many times. As for my time on the board, I think we have set very high standards and we really have achieved unity. I am very proud to have been a part of the board.”