Geneva School Board President Mark Grosso said in a District 304 press release Tuesday that the Geneva teachers union was filing for a strike five hours before talks ended Friday.
The Geneva Education Association countered with its own press release Tuesday evening, posted on the gea4students website, calling the School Board's accusations "disturbing" and saying it had to file at that time to make a 4:30 p.m. deadline with the Kane County Regional Office of Education and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
Both sides said they made dramatic movement from their posted final offers and acknowledged that a settlement appeared to be in reach during the 12-hour Friday bargaining session.
“What is particularly troubling is that, while the union was supposedly evaluating the board’s latest proposal, it was instead drafting and filing its notice of intent to strike with county and state officials,” Grosso said.
The District 304 press release says the board learned Monday, Oct. 29, that the GEA had filed its strike notice while the parties were in the midst of the bargaining session.
GEA President Carol Young told the Kane County Chronicle that the filing simply was a matter of trying to hit the deadline before those offices closed for the weekend. Her statement was reiterated in the GEA press release posted Tuesday evening.
"We filed this (strike) notice while continuing to negotiate, hoping it would not be used," the GEA press release said. "We were fully engaged at that time with formulating an offer to the board which included a freeze in the first year and which we hoped would be agreed upon by the board, thus making the Intent to Strike null and void. This, however, did not happen."
The previous three-year contract expired Aug. 15. Since then, teachers have been working with pay according to the salary levels set for the 2011-12 school year.
The parties are scheduled to continue talks with the help of the federal mediator on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Friday's Sequence of Events
The School Board said it delivered a proposal at 2 p.m. that included a base salary in the first year, a 1.65 percent increase in the second year and a 2.75 percent increase in the third year.
That proposal would have allowed multiple lane salary increases in year one and one lane increase in years two and three of a three-year contract.
Under the previous contract, each lane movement—awarded for completion of eight hours of advanced degree coursework—increased a salary by a minimum of 2.65 percent.
"Upon receiving the board’s offer, the union team met privately until approximately 5:30 p.m., presumably for the purpose of evaluating the board’s offer and crafting a response," Grosso said. "Instead, the union was drafting and filing its notice of intent to strike with county and state authorities. The union did not return to meet with the board’s negotiators until a full hour after it had filed its notice of intent to strike with county and state authorities.
"When the union finally returned to meet with the board, the union had no formal proposal to tender, but instead offered to discuss concepts for settlement."
According to the District 304 release, the union presented the board with a proposal at 6:45 p.m. that included:
- A salary freeze for all teachers in year one, except for those who qualify for lane movement due to additional education.
- A 2.65 percent step increase over the amount paid in year one for all teachers for the first half of year two, and a 3.975 percent step increase for the remainder of year two.
- A 2.65 percent step increase over the amount paid in year two for all teachers for the first half of year three and a 3.975 percent step increase for the remainder of year three.
- A base salary increase of $198 in year two and $199 in year three.
At 9:45 p.m. Friday the union handed its notice of intent to strike to the board’s negotiators.
“The Board of Education is deeply concerned that, while the board has made substantial strides in its effort to settle this matter, the union is simply shuffling its last demand between years without any meaningful concessions,” Grosso said.
"It is apparent that, while the board has been diligently working since February to achieve an agreement that is good for students, fair to teachers, and fiscally responsible, the union is intent in having the district’s teachers walk off the job in an effort to shut down our schools.”
The GEA press release calls the board's account of the negotiations "disturbing."
"Our offers have come down more than 2.5 percent since June and our previous offer was over $1 million less in total cost to the district than our Oct. 5 offer. That is certainly not 'shuffling between years,' " the GEA press release says. "It is a good faith effort to settle this contract, which we were fully prepared to do on Friday evening."
The gea4students website says the teachers union is doing all it can to avoid a strike.
"We fervently hope we will not have to go on strike and have tried very hard to do nothing that would negatively impact students.
"What the teachers have not done is anything which negatively impacts the education of the students. We care deeply about each and every child we teach and do not want to be forced into doing anything that would impact those students’ education!" the GEA homepage statement says. "But, to be working without a contract is unacceptable, and for the board to refuse to make any further offers shows they are no longer willing to work together to solve this problem. Neither side can stonewall the negotiation process! Please let the School Board know that you want this contract settled NOW!"
The GEA press release says the board's negotiating team needed to call a special board meeting in order to confer with the other board members about a possible agreement. According to the Open Meetings Act, a public body cannot convene a quorum of board members without posting a meeting notice.
"This meant that we would not be able to negotiate again for a full 10 days until Nov. 6, three days before a possible strike," the GEA press release said. "One would think that if they were truly interested in good faith bargaining that timetable could have been moved up considerably."
Grosso said the board "will continue to negotiate in good faith" but is preparing a plan if teachers strike. That could happen as soon as Nov. 9. The GEA said it is "ready and willing to negotiate with the board in good faith as soon as the board is willing to meet. We are still hopeful that a settlement can be reached."
The School Board said it will communicate with parents and the community regarding plans during a strike via the district’s emergency notification system, 304Connects emails, and the board’s negotiations webpage.
Both sides say they appreciate the community's support.
"The Board of Education is deeply appreciative and humbled by the overwhelming community support it has received since the union declared impasse," the School District press release said. "Unfortunately, the amount of correspondence received by board members is simply too great to allow personal responses to each. The public is encouraged, however, to continue communicating with the board on this very important matter."
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