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Geneva teachers give notice of intent to strike

Updated: November 29, 2012 6:26AM



GENEVA – Despite a 12-hour negotiation session that stretched into late Friday night, the Geneva teachers union has delivered a Notice of Intent to Strike to School Board negotiators.

At least 14 days must pass before the Geneva Education Association members can strike — making Nov. 9 the earliest date a strike could occur, School District officials said.

Earlier Friday, the School Board publicly posted its final offer to teachers — including a pay freeze for the first year of the contract.

The School District, in a release, said progress and agreement were made on a number of issues during the negotiating session, but several issues remain unresolved.

The district now will prepare a strike plan. Information on plans for handling the possible strike will be available through the district’s emergency notification system, 304Connects e-mails, and the board’s negotiations webpage, www.geneva304.org/negotiations.asp.

Besides the salary freeze proposed in its offer, the School District’s proposal also includes just one raise in base salaries, in the second year of the contract, and caps the number of step and lane increases teachers can earn throughout the next three years.

The proposal calls for a “hard freeze” for the current school year — no step increases for teachers for time spent in the district, no lane increases for completing graduate coursework, and no salary increase. Instead, teachers would receive a $500 bonus for each approved continuing education class they complete this year.

Salaries this year would range between $39,651 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, to $99,069 for a teacher with 22 years’ experience and doctorate.

That’s the first year.

In the 2013-14 school year, teachers’ base salaries would rise 1.4 percent. Step advances for tenure would remain frozen, but teachers could earn a 2.65 percent lane increase, capped at three — the equivalent of completing an entire masters degree program.

And in the final year of the proposed contract, base pay remains the same, but teachers could advance one step, and potentially earn one lane advance.

That offer is a stretch from the final contract proposal from the teachers union.

Teachers asked for a 1 percent base pay increase for the first two years of the contract, plus step and lane increases for teachers who earn them.

Teachers have offered to accept a pay freeze during the first six months of the contract’s third year, and only step and lane increases in the second six months.

The teachers have also offered to pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums and lower tuition reimbursement for professional training.

In a letter to Geneva Education Association President Carol Young, School Board President Mark Grosso said that his board’s proposal is in line with sacrifices made by other Geneva School District employees, and by teachers in neighboring St. Charles and Kaneland school districts.

“Deep spending cuts have been made over the past three years. To this end, every other employee group in this district has taken a salary freeze at some point over the course of the GEA’s most recent three-year contract. Because of these measures, the district has not been forced to reduce, or lay off, teachers,” Grosso wrote.

Young has said that teachers object to the freeze primarily because losing a step increase this year would depress salaries for the youngest teachers by lowering the dollar value of each future raise. The Geneva Education Association also pointed to neighboring districts — Batavia and Burlington — where newly ratified contracts did not include step and lane freezes.

Residents shopping in downtown Geneva agreed that both sides have valid points, but they also tended to support the one-year pay freeze.

John DiNormandie, a former school board member in the Evergreen Park School District, where teachers are now on strike, said it all comes down to the money.

“Teachers here do a great job, but they want it both ways – tenure and a pay increase. Nobody wants to go without a raise, but I know people who haven’t had a raise in five years, and the teachers aren’t badly paid.”

Mostly, people said they wanted to see both sides just come to an agreement.

“I think both sides should compromise,” said Joyce Kopecky, whose grandchildren attend Heartland Elementary School and Geneva Middle School North. “I want both sides to come away with something. We have wonderful teachers here, but we also see the financial situation the district is struggling with.”

Both contracts are online at www2.illinois.gov/elrb under “Impasse Final Offers.”

The School Board and the union have been meeting since February, with the aid of a federal mediator since July.

The next mediation session is tentatively set for Nov. 6.



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