Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2013, 10:48 pm

East Moline schools, union reach contract accord

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By Sarah Hayden, shayden@qconline.com

EAST MOLINE -- A collective bargaining agreement with the East Moline Education Association was approved by school board members on Wednesday.

District teachers had worked without a contract for nine months, using the terms of an expired one-year agreement, said superintendent Kristin Humphries.

The board quietly and unanimously passed the new four-year agreement after a closed session. Absent were the crowds of angry teachers who wore red "EMEA Unity" T-shirts to the past two school board meetings.

The new pact gives teachers step raises based on longevity, retroactive to the start of the school year. The previous one-year contract had removed those raises.

Teachers will receive two longevity step increases in the 2013-14 school year, followed by single longevity step raises in each of the next two years. In return, EMEA members lose the district's 3.25 percent contribution on their behalf to the Teachers' Retirement System. Mr. Humphries also said there will be no other percentage raises.

"It came down to cooperation and being able to come together," he said. "We wanted a win-win situation and this really works for both sides."

He said the four-year contract lets the district plan better for long-term goals.

EMEA co-president Steve Miller said the union approved the agreement with exactly a two-thirds majority, although a simple majority of 50 percent plus one was all that was needed.

"I think, in the end, the board and the EMEA really came together to do what was best for the board, the district, the union, the taxpayers, and most of all, the students," he said. "It's always about the students; that's what we push for."

EMEA co-president Laura Kalman said she wasn't shocked union members didn't approve the agreement last month. Teachers felt they weren't being justly compensated, she said.

"You have to negotiate for the greater good," said Ms. Kalman. "It was a learning experience for both sides. Ultimately you have to cut through everybody's agenda to find what's best for the students, teachers and the board."

The board on Wednesday also approved a 2.7 percent increase for administrators -- excluding Mr. Humphries -- and all groups not covered by the EMEA agreement, effective on July 1, 2012.