D86 teachers have new four-year contract

A new four-year contract for teachers in Hinsdale High School District 86 calls for a longer school day and a minimum of 28 early release Wednesdays.

The school board voted 5-2 to approve the contract March 9, which had been ratified by members of the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association March 6. Several board members praised the move to a school day that runs from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., with eight 50-minute periods, including a 50-minute lunch.

“There is a very big need for time during the school day for students to access support, whether that’s getting help from teachers, getting help from interventionists during an unstructured period or accessing a more formalized support,” board member Debbie Levinthal said. “This will provide that opportunity, and it’s an opportunity that does not exist under our current schedule.”

Board member Cynthia Hanson said the agreement provides time for the social and emotional needs of students and teachers to be met.

“Students can access teachers, teachers have time to collaborate and share ideas back and forth,” she said.

Some board members and residents objected to the provision calling for at least 28 early release Wednesdays, when students will be dismissed at 1:55 p.m.

Board member Peggy James said she recognizes the importance of teacher collaboration but noted instructional time is down from the 2018-19 school year, with the 2023-24 year 17 hours shy of that total.

Board member Jeff Waters reiterated his criticism of early release Wednesdays while expressing “ardent” support for teachers. He blamed administrators and fellow board members for pulling them out of the classroom during a time of falling test scores.

“My struggle is with administration for putting the goals of collaboration as it relates to the strategic plan ahead of the goals of the students and teachers, who do their best work inside the classroom.

“I’m trying to empower the teachers to work with the students at the same level they did pre-pandemic,” he added.

Resident Angie Sartori said less instructional time seems counterintuitive given the drop in test scores.

“That is completely against what is best for the students at this school, at this district,” Sartori said.

School board candidate Cat Greenspon noted her support for teachers and support staff but questioned approving a four-year agreement this close to the April eletion.

“It will not give the new board an opportunity to support teachers and the HHSTA because we won’t be renewing or talking about contracts,” she said. “It is completely inappropriate for this board to do this.”

Little time was spent on the financial details of the contract (see sidebar). The average total cost increase of the contract (salary, benefits, stipends, etc.) is 2.61 percent a year.

Amanda Burton, chief HHSTA negotiator, said her team appreciates the collaborative approach that has been in place since 2016.

“Throughout the negotiations, all parties ... have worked together in a very professional and collaborative process to reach agreement,” she said. “For the first time in many years we were able to reach agreement on a multi-year contract prior to the end of the school year, and this was really appreciated by our teachers.”

Board member Kathleen Hirsman, who also was on the board’s negotiating teams in 2016 and 2020, applauded the process and the product.

“In each negotiations year, we have built on the collaboration and trust that we developed in the previous negotiations,” she said. “To end up with a contract which I think benefits everybody — but most importantly benefits our students, that was the goal.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean