Urbana Board of Education approves new three-year contract for school district
The Urbana Board of Education unanimously approved a new three-year contract for the Urbana School District earlier this month.
The new contract, approved on April 4, will improve the district’s ability to recruit new hires while retaining its current staff, district officials said. In turn, they said this will help the district stay competitive with others nearby.
The contract will be effective from the next school year through the 2025 to 2026 school year.
Negotiations between the board and the Urbana Education Association started in November. Both sides met weekly until mid-March, said Paul Poulosky, the president of the board.
Poulosky said the relationship between both parties made the negotiation process easy.
“There is mutual respect between the board and the association,” Poulosky said. “Even if there were disagreements, we were able to understand and listen to each other.”
He said one of the reasons why the board voted in favor of the agreement was because they realized the staff was not being paid enough.
“If you look at how much teachers are making now, it is not much more than a job working at retail,” he said. “So, it was pretty evident that until we could raise pay and benefits, we would have real difficulty hiring the people we need to support our kids.”
According to the contract, starting pay will increase to $18 per hour next school year for teaching assistants.
During each year of the contract, pay will increase by 50 cents until the 2025-2026 academic year.
There will be designated stipends for hard-to-fill teaching positions, according to a press release from the school district. Personal leave will also increase based on teachers’ years of service in the district.
Mark Foley, president of the Urbana Education Association, said the union wanted to make teachers feel appreciated.
“Across the country, a lot of people are leaving the profession,” Foley said. “So, from the union’s side, we wanted to create a contract that would make people feel respected.”
The vibrancy and stability of the community depend on good teachers to educate the youth, he said.
“It's not just about the union. It’s not about just the teachers,” Foley said. “It’s about the entire community.”