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Better financial outlook leads to Streator Elementary agreement

Roughly 10 hours of talks Wednesday between the Streator Elementary teachers union and the school board alleviated months of tension built up between the two sides.

The union and board reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract at about 8 p.m. Wednesday. The union will take its ratification vote Wednesday, April 11, and the school board is expected to vote on it Tuesday, April 17, at its regular meeting.

Details of the agreement are being held until the union and board vote on them.

The teachers union had declared an intent to strike as early as next week if a deal was not made.

School Board President Michael Holcomb said what had changed was the economic outlook for the district. Under the new state funding formula, Superintendent Lisa Parker is projecting a balanced budget this year.

"The board never had the economic information to actually offer something," Holcomb said. "That always makes things go smoother."

Holcomb said prior to Wednesday's negotiations Parker was preparing projections for future budgets. Board President Jan Urbance said going into Wednesday the union was not willing to accept a one-year deal, saying pay raises would be imperative.

"I want to reiterate that it was not about never giving anything," Holcomb said. "It was about the district living within its means. We offered the fairest deal we could while still doing that."

Urbance said the biggest difference this time around in talks from previous months was Parker's presence. Parker has been working on an interim basis since February. She will take the administrative post full-time July 1.

"The atmosphere in the room was totally different," Urbance said. "The new superintendent was prepared and knew what was going on. I also think the community outreach of people supporting us helped change the atmosphere of what was going on."

Urbance said while representatives believe they reached a fair deal Wednesday, it will be up to the union membership now to ratify it April 11.

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