Support professionals and teacher assistants in Oak Park Elementary District 97 have accepted a wage freeze for next year, aligning themselves with teacher’s union which accepted a pay freeze earlier this year.
The move is aimed to show a unified message of sacrifice by District 97 employees leading up to an April 5 , which aims to fix with a tax increase a near $6 million budget gap annually.
The 56-member Oak Park Educational Support Professionals Association (OPESPA) and 105-member Oak Park Teacher Assistants’ Association (OPTAA) both announced Friday they will freeze the wages of their memberships for the 2011-2012 school year, saving District 97 nearly $200,000.
The Oak Park Teachers’ Association already over the next year, saving $1 million. District administrators also agreed to wage freezes in January .
Together, the concessions total an estimated savings of $1.3 million next year.
The salary moves by the OPESPA and OPTAA — the district’s other labor groups — will be enacted regardless of whether or not the referendum passes.
If a referendum fails, District 97 has already outlined . But the wage freezes OK’d by the unions would help save some of those program and staff cuts, said Supt. Al Roberts.
The OPESPA — comprised of secretaries, technology specialists, media assistants, receptionists, and administrative assistants — voted with 83 percent supporting the measure.
“What could have been a difficult conversation was handled courteously and with dignity by all present. It certainly felt like we all wanted the same thing – the best for our students first, and for the staff of District 97 as well,” according to a statement issued by the OPESP.
The OPTAA had 90 percent support from its members.
“We want to help the district keep the cuts to programs and jobs to a minimum, and hope that our wage freeze will make a difference,” said OPTAA President Monica Madan.
Roberts and Board of Education President Peter Traczyk sent out a joint statement praising the latest wage freezes.