November 08, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

ELGIN Contract negotiations between the Elgin School District and its teachers and classified staff have hit a snag.

The teachers and the classified staff have rejected a tentative agreement reached by employee bargaining teams and the school administration.

The agreement was rejected by a margin of 35-6, said second-grade teacher Marta Naughton, president of the Elgin Education Association and a member of the teacher-classified staff bargaining team. The deadline for voting was Wednesday.

Fridays are the major reason the proposed contract was rejected.

The teachers and classified staff had asked that they be released from school at noon Fridays. Terms of the tentative agreement would have allowed teachers to be released at noon one Friday a month and at 3 p.m. on the remaining Fridays.

Classes now are dismissed at noon on Fridays but school district employees must remain on the job until 4 p.m. Teachers are available to help students with school work in the afternoon.

Naughton said that members of the classified staff rejected the agreement because it did not give them any time off on Friday afternoons.

The rejected agreement would not have given teachers and classified staff a base salary increase. However, it would have allowed salary schedules to remain in place. Under the schedule, teachers and classified staff can get pay increases for each additional year of experience. In addition, teachers can boost their salary by obtaining more education. Those at the top of the schedule do not receive increases.

The tentative agreement also would have boosted what the school district pays for health insurance by $21 to a total of $495 a month.

Naughton said that salary and benefits are not the reason the tentative agreement was rejected. She said that teachers and classified staff realize that the school district is having a hard time financially.

We understand the financial situation, she said.

... If we cant have money, we would like release time.

In spite of the impasse, Naughton remains hopeful.

I think it can be worked out, I really do, she said.

The tentative agreement was reached after a state mediator was brought in to assist.

School board member Bud Scoubes said he thought things had been going well.

The wheels were spinning. I guess that now they have grinded to a halt, he said.