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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

U-46 Board approves bus pact via split vote


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved a new four-year contract with the district’s transportation union and a professional development proposal, both receiving some dissent on Monday, June 5.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said after the approval of the union contract it was “fiscally responsible and also serves the interest of bus drivers and the administration,” but does it serve the taxpayers who pay for or the parents and students who use the transportation services?
  Board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voted no, but the contract was approved by a 4-2 vote. Donna Smith, the board’s president, was not at the meeting.
  Jeff King, chief operations officer, said negotiations lasted 15 months and it includes automatic pay increases of 25 cents per hour in the first year, 50 cents in the second and third and fourth years increases will be tied to the Consumer Price Index.
  King said other changes include “employees picking up additional health care costs, sunset of the retirement and the pension language that’s in the contract, reductions in overtime and improved efficiency by changing how routes are selected and extra work is assigned.”
  Ward said the contract was not fiscally responsible as the district chose not to outsource part of the transportation services which would have meant greater savings for the taxpayers.
  “Had we moved ahead with partial outsourcing of transportation we would have saved $2 million additionally compared to the cost of this contract while at the same time maintaining jobs for those transportation employees who wanted to remain,” Ward said.
  Costello voted against the contract “primarily because I view the purported savings not as negotiated concessions but rather untenable, structural inefficiencies.” While he said he was “impressed with the stories of drivers’ compassion and impact on many of our most vulnerable students,” he was “also aware of stories of late and missed pickups, discipline issues and legal settlements that I believe are all too prevalent.”
  Costello said he would prefer an incentive-based contract as opposed to automatic pay raises.
  “In order for our union and district to create a real value proposition, I’d rather invest in joint initiatives at enhancing service goals with incentives and rewarding staff with accordingly through measurable and achieved district performance objectives,” Costello said.
  A professional development proposal with Golden Apple costing $112,500, which will be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through Title I funds, was approved 5-1, Ward voting no.
  The proposal claims the profession development is “to support inquiry based science pedagogy,” but Ward said it includes a “climate change day” that provides one-sided information on climate change.
  Ward said: “One of the handouts states that there is a great deal of misinformation available online and in the media’ about climate change. With that I agree. Unfortunately this material perpetuates misinformation and presents only one-sided arguments by presenting anthropogenic global warming as the only view. How does it support inquiry based pedagogy to teach teachers to present only one viewpoint to students?”
  On social media, Ward has posted examples from the “climate change day” resources showing the bias. Included is the desire to have teachers train students on being “political activists” while claiming that it is not political.
  Approved that evening by a 6-0 vote was the purchase of a property in Elgin costing $2.95 million which will come out of the food and nutrition fund. According to the proposal, the property will “allow (U-46) to expand its dry, refrigerated and freezer storage to reduce overall operating costs.”
  King said the district’s current space is “very small as compared to what our need is.” At the time the current space was first being used, King said the district was producing 13,000 lunches but now it is producing over 22,000 lunches along with breakfasts.
  The purchase will help reduce labor and other costs according to King who said the return on investment will be “approximately 11 years” as opposed to renovating current space which would likely be “16 years or greater.”
  Costello lauded the effort for its “insight and vision in doing something of this magnitude” and it’s “looking for solutions as opposed to the status quo.”
  Also approved by 6-0 votes were $12.2 million in itemized bills as well as a $138,750 expenditure from the operations and maintenance fund.

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