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Parents relieved as Geneva schools avoid teacher strike

Students arrive GenevMiddle School South Monday after strike was averted.  |  Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

Students arrive at Geneva Middle School South on Monday after a strike was averted. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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What’S next?

Tuesday — Geneva Education Association membership will examine the proposed three-year contract.

Wednesday — GEA members will vote on contract.

Next week — Geneva School Board will have special meeting to vote on contract. Date has not been set.

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Updated: December 14, 2012 6:12AM

GENEVA — Geneva residents got a jolt of relief with their morning coffee Monday when they learned that a last-minute settlement staved off a strike by School District 304 teachers.

The district’s 6,000 students and 400-plus teachers were in class as usual, after an 8-hour-long bargaining session resulted in a tentative agreement on a new teachers contract early Monday morning.

Details of the three-year agreement have not been released. Officials said the contract specifics will be made public after it is ratified by the teachers union and the board.

Outside Geneva Middle School North Monday morning, some parents were surprised that a settlement had been reached overnight.

One mom, who only wanted her first name Melissa used, said she and her husband turned off their phones the night before, thinking they could sleep in a bit, and were surprised when they got the alert that a tentative deal had been reached.

Despite the rushed morning, she expressed relief the students would have school that day.

Karen Frydrychowicz, too, was relieved to be taking her daughter to kindergarten at Harrison Street Elementary, but admitted she still had trepidation.

“They said it’s tentative, so …” she said.

Another parent, Kim Pietrusiewicz said she was happy to walk her children to Williamsburg Elementary School in Monday’s below-freezing weather.

“I’m really glad the strike didn’t happen,” she said. “The kids need to be in school learning. I hope everybody got what they wanted from the negotiations.”

Shari Baughman celebrated over coffee at Starbucks.

“My daughter’s in the high school, so she would have stayed home today if the strike had gone ahead,” she said. “I’m just glad that it’s all resolved and the kids are in school. I hope everyone got everything they need (in the contract) and that all the issues are resolved so this doesn’t happen again.”

Teachers in the Geneva Education Association and other union staff members rejoiced on social media.

“Tentative agreement reached! No strike!!” proclaimed a Facebook post by Geneva High School librarian Elizabeth Grubaugh. “For those of you planning to come out and picket with us... sleep in! Thank you all so much! Your support and words of encouragement have meant a great deal.”

Grubaugh posted her message to Geneva Alumni in Support of Teachers, a Facebook group with 857 members – many of whom did express interest in joining teachers on the picket line.

“Today is a regular school day in Geneva. And that’s great news,” posted Vinnie Duber, a GHS alum now living in Chicago. “... To the teachers, know that whether or not we have a yard sign, the message on those signs rings true for all of us every single day. You guys are the best.”

While the joint press release issued by the School Board and the GEA simply states the facts, the GEA’s website offers a message of thanks to its supporters. “Happy Monday! See you at school!” appears prominently on the site’s homepage.

Board member Michael McCormick said earlier that he and his fellow board members entered Sunday’s negotiating session hoping to wake up Monday without worrying about pickets standing outside schools.

“Everybody on the board couldn’t sleep Sunday if they didn’t put everything they had into avoiding a strike that would hurt the entire community,” McCormick.

Perhaps the only Geneva residents who weren’t overjoyed about averting a strike were students – and even their regrets were fleeting.

“I wanted to get the week off, but my mom was really happy when she found out there was no strike today,” said seventh-grader Madeline Rich as she shivered at a middle school bus stop. “I bet the teachers are happy, too.”

Geneva High senior Patrick Su smiled over his calculus book during a before-school study session at Starbucks.

“I was kind of surprised they settled overnight, because I heard the union filed an unfair labor practice charge so I thought there would be a lot of tension (between the union and the board),” he commented. “But I have two AP classes, so I’m very glad I’m not going to miss any classes before the AP tests.”

GEA members will formally examine the proposed contract Tuesday and vote on it Wednesday. The School Board will schedule a special meeting to vote on it sometime next week, according to the joint press release.

Although details of the tentative accord were not released, issues that remained on the table before Sunday’s session included base pay, the number of step and lane advancements, and extra pay raises for retiring teachers.

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