Sunnybrook District 171 reaches contract agreement with teachers

District 171

Long process ends with “successful” result for District 171 and its teachers

By Jennifer Yos

LANSING, Ill. (January 27, 2021) – At its Monday, January 25, school board meeting, the Sunnybrook District 171 School Board voted to approve a professional agreement between Sunnybrook School District 171 and the Sunnybrook Education Association— the union that represents Heritage Middle School and Nathan Hale Elementary School teachers. The approved three-year contract begins retroactively July 1, 2020, and is binding through June 30, 2023.

District 171
Erika Millhouse-Pettis organized a parade for D171 students in April of 2020. Pettis is now the Superintendent of District 171. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

At the same January 25 board meeting the meeting agenda was amended in order to include the vote for approval of a five-year contract with Erika Millhouse-Pettis for the position of District 171 Superintendent effective July 1, 2021, through June 31, 2026. Millhouse-Pettis served as Assistant Superintendent in the past and most recently has served as the interim Superintendent.

A long negotiation

The teachers’ contract approval was the culmination of more than six months of sometimes-frustrating negotiations between the District and the Sunnybrook Education Association. Contract negotiations had been ongoing since July 1 of 2020, with salary schedules and retention of teachers’ planning periods being two key issues.


The new contract provides teachers, on average, a 5.25–6.28 percent salary increase for the first year, depending on the teacher’s lane; year 2 averages a 5.54 percent increase; and year 3 averages a 5.55 percent increase. The teachers’ two allotted planning periods were retained.

E-learning language

The following specific language regarding e-learning was also worked out for the benefit of all parties:

E-learning Days may be used in lieu of emergency days pursuant to Section 10-20.56 of the School Code and as permitted or required during a public health emergency. Staff will report in for each e-learning day electronically by 8:00 a.m. and will end no later than 3:15 p.m. The District will provide any employee who does not have internet access or a computer at home a Hot Spot and a Chromebook. The District will hold harmless any employee who experiences technical difficulties due to equipment malfunction or an Act of God. If remote instruction becomes necessary as a result of a pandemic or other public health emergency, the Superintendent and SEA President will discuss what constitutes a safe working for the employees and safe learning environment for the students prior to the Superintendent determining if the staff can safely carry out their assignments from their respective buildings.

The Sunnybrook Education Association (SEA) agreed to the contract after a six-hour meeting with a mediator on January 6, and the contract had been voted upon and ratified on Tuesday, January 19.

Union comments

Teachers Union Vice President Kathleen Specht spoke during the visitor’s comments portion of the January 25 board meeting. “On behalf of the SEA, we’d like to thank the board for approving the contract. It was a long process, but I think we came to a very successful end result, so we thank you for your cooperation, and we look forward to having some successful years in the future,” she said.

Sunnybrook School District 171 includes Heritage Middle School and Nathan Hale Elementary School. District offices are located at 19266 Burnham Avenue, Lansing, IL.


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Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.