Updated Feb. 15, 2012, 2:00 p.m.

The District 91 Board of Education approved a three-year agreement with the Forest Park Teachers Association at the Feb. 9 school board meeting.

Superintendent Lou Cavallo said the contract was easily agreed to by the FPTA. “It was a collaborative, collegial negotiation,” he said. “There was absolutely no contention when we were at the negotiating table.”

The FPTA voted to accept the contract on Feb. 7. Sixty-five union members voted to accept the terms with 28 opposed, according to the union’s Facebook page, posted by union member Rebecca Ciardullo who teaches eighth grade reading and language arts at Forest Park Middle School.

D91 teachers received a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, as well as a .75 percent increase.

“This was an earnest attempt to keep pace with similar districts with similar enrollment,” said Cavallo, noting that D91 benchmarks itself with 10 other districts, including Norridge, Westchester, Franklin Park, Hillside and LaGrange Highlands.

Cavallo said teachers also got a new “lane” of pay-grade increases for instructors with PhDs. The maximum salary earned by the most experienced teacher with a doctorate or a master’s degree plus 60 hours is now $93,688 for next school year. Beginning teachers with only a bachelor’s degree will earn $36,891 next year. Cavallo said no teachers in the district had doctorate degrees, but the pay schedule encouraged them to continue their education. The district increased funding for reimbursing education credits, he said.

School board member John Tricoci voted against the new contract, saying he thought teachers deserved a raise, but that in tough economic times 3.75 percent was too much.

“I think we have great, hard-working teachers who deserved a raise, but I don’t know too many people receiving 3.75 percent raises these days.” Tricoci said he thought 2Ð3 percent would have been better.

Another change in this year’s contract was a mandatory wellness screening – with results kept confidential and given only to the teachers, said Cavallo. This will involve the district paying for a biometric screening and blood analysis, he said. Blood can be drawn at the school or at a private medical firm. Teachers must participate in the screening to be eligible for the district to pay their health insurance coverage – the full premium for single coverage. Teachers will receive confidential information about cholesterol, diabetes, triglycerides, etc. and can get tailor-made information on how to manage any medical conditions they may have with nutrition and exercise.

New Illinois state laws passed this summer took away some of the most historically contentious areas of union-board conflict. Senate Bill 7, an education reform bill, changed tenure laws and hiring/firing rules. Under SB7, teachers can no longer be laid off, based on seniority during reduction-in-force layoffs.

“Last-in, first-out is gone. It’s state law now. Fortunately for us, we’re not looking to release any faculty,” said Cavallo.

Also SB7 tweaked the tenure process statewide. Teacher evaluation requirements for tenure were beefed up, but exceptional teachers could achieve tenure in three years instead of four. SB7 also streamlined the dismissal process for tenured teachers and made provisions for school board oversight.

Cavallo called union negotiations, “respectful.” He said “FPTA is an easy group to work with. We’re all trying to do what’s best for the district and the kids.”

Board member addresses conflict of interest

D91 board member Mary Turek read a statement at the Feb. 9 meeting, denying she had a conflict of interest by serving on the D91 school board and as president of the St. Bernardine School Board of Specified Jurisdiction (a specialized school board of local professionals that guides the school). “Serving on St. B’s board is not a prohibited activity [for a public school board member]. Since 1915, St. Bernardine’s has publicly coexisted with the neighboring school district. Competition is better for both schools, and they complement each other,” she said. She also made clear that the St. Bernardine BSJ did not make any hiring decisions. Turek invited anyone who had a problem with her dual school board membership to speak with her directly.

New principal hired for Field-Stevenson

D91 hired Dr. Tiffany Brunson, a Chicago Public School principal at Brian Piccolo Elementary School in West Humboldt Park as the new principal at Field-Stevenson School. The hiring committee chose her “unanimously,” said Cavallo. The committee consisted of two parents, two teachers, two principals, the intermediate director of special education and Assistant Superintendent Edward Brophy. Forty people applied for the job, said Cavallo.

Brunson will begin next fall and will be paid $115,000, he said.

“She’s a dynamic leader and we’re very fortunate to have her on our team,” Cavallo said.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...