Genevans react to potential teachers’ strike; School Board prepares contingency plans
bY Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News October 28, 2012 7:42PM
Updated: November 30, 2012 6:26AM
GENEVA — Although no strike date has been set, the Geneva School Board is preparing to establish a contingency plan should teachers decide to walk the picket line.
But the idea of a contingency plan does little to relieve the anxiety of parents enjoying their Sunday afternoon with their children at the center of their attention.
“I am tremendously worried teachers are going to strike,” said Robert Franke, who was out with his elementary school age son trick-or-treating at the Geneva Commons shopping center. “I find it ridiculous at this point and time, with the economy the way it is and people struggling the way they are that both sides cannot come to an agreement,” Franke said.
“I don’t fathom how teachers can be oblivious to the fact we have had a terrible economy and people are struggling and they want their continued raises. No one is asking them to take a pay cut, they are only asking them to take a pay freeze — most everybody else has taken some kind of pay cut,” the father said.
The Geneva Education Association on Friday issued a notice of intent to strike to School Board negotiators after a lengthy bargaining session.
School Board president Mark Grosso issued a statement that the Board remains committed to negotiating an agreement that is good for students, fair to teachers and fiscally responsible.
But while he said the Board remains hopeful that union members will continue to work until an agreement is reached, the district intends to plan the next step in the event of a walkout. “Given the notice filed today, however, it would be negligent of the District not to plan in advance for the possibility of a strike,” Grosso said.
The teachers’ union said the impasse in negotiations has left them frustrated.
“Unfortunately, the parents do need to worry about a strike,” said Carol Young, Geneva Education Association president.
Young said the teachers’ union is still hopeful that on Nov. 6 they will be able to settle on an agreement, but they would be “remiss if we did not recommend to parents that they prepare for the possibility of a strike.”
Young said while considerable progress was made during the bargaining session, the Board was “unwilling to accept our offers.”
“We are extremely frustrated, especially since we will not be meeting again for over a week. We do not want to go on strike. We care deeply for our students and do not want anything to impact their education.”
Grosso said the Board will prepare a strike plan detailing how they will communicate with parents and the community regarding plans during a possible strike.
Grosso said district officials will make every effort to keep the community informed through the district’s emergency notification system, 304 emails and the board’s negotiations at www.304.org/negotiations.asp.
The earliest Geneva teachers could strike is Nov. 9, according to the district. Both sides have posted their contract proposals at the Board’s negotiations website and at www.gea4students.org.
The Board’s negotiations website provides a question and answer format on the negotiations and a statement that they are considering options of whether to keep schools open if there is a strike.
“At this time, the Board has not made a decision whether schools will be open during a work stoppage. The Board is currently reviewing a number of options to keep schools open and available for children during a strike.”
The website further informs parents whose children are active in extracurricular activities to prepare for disruptions on the field, as well as in the classroom. “Under IHSA rules, during a strike, all athletic and other contests at the high school level are cancelled.”
Rules do permit practices under certain condition, according to the webpage.
Young added that the GEA has “no right” to object if the district decides to try to hold classes, but it would be “extremely difficult for them to maintain the educational program at the normal level” as required by state law.
Michele Hurley said she’s worried her high school and middle school age children would have to make-up missed days. “I feel Geneva teachers are compensated quite well and have quite a bit of time off. I don’t necessarily agree with everything they are asking for,” Hurley said.
Rob Hager was at the Peck Farm athletic field watching his grandson play soccer. He has two grandchildren in the Geneva elementary schools. “I am embarrassed Geneva teachers are even thinking about a strike,” Hager said.
The agreement between the Board and teachers expired Aug. 15 and the salary terms remain the same, as do health insurance and other benefits.