Geneva school officials surprised at impasse in contract negotiations
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2012 5:44PM
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:39AM
GENEVA — The Geneva Education Association apparently has declared an impasse in negotiations with the school board, and administration officials were surprised to hear it.
The two sides have been negotiating for months, since well before the Geneva teachers’ contract expired Aug. 15. The teachers earlier this year called in federal mediation, and both sides met Oct. 5 with a mediator. After that session, both sides agreed to another one Oct. 23.
But the website of the Illinois Education Association announced Friday that Geneva teachers have declared an impasse in negotiations.
In e-mails sent to district residents, Superintendent Kent Mutchler Friday said the declaration “suggests that they have concluded that nothing can be gained by future negotiations.”
“It is disheartening to the members of the Board of Education that the GEA has chosen this route, as the Board of Education has remained steadfast in its commitment to negotiating in good faith and coming to a fair and reasonable agreement,” Mutchler said.
Both sides will present their best and final offers by Oct. 19. The board’s final offer will be posted on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website, www.illinois.gov/elrb, and the Geneva School District website, www.geneva304.org, on or about Oct. 26.
Declaration of an impasse does not necessarily mean the teachers are set to strike. Teachers first have to vote to strike, and cannot do so until 14 days after the best and final offers from both sides are posted. Teachers have to give the School District at least 10 days notice of their intent to strike.
“The Board of Education and GEA have a long history and tradition of working collaboratively for the benefits of students, staff and community,” Mutchler said in his e-mail. “It is the board’s sincere hope that the GEA will renew that spirit of collaboration and return to the table with the board.”
A message posted on the GEA website, www.gea4students.org, said they are discouraged by the current contract situation.
“Over 220 teachers showed up at the last School Board meeting wearing our United We Teach shirts, as we have at each Board meeting since August,” the message said. “Numerous speakers, teachers and now parents, as well, are expressing their displeasure at the present stalemate. Teachers have refrained from putting up bulletin boards in the hallways of our schools and are wearing United We Teach buttons to bring attention to our plight. However, our efforts seem to have gone unnoticed by the Board.”
Residents supporting the Geneva teachers in their contract negotiations with the School Board have worn T-shirts, attended School Board meetings and posted signs in their yard.
According to the GEA, teachers are asking for pay and benefits that are more in line with surrounding communities. The GEA claims the proposal would not result in a tax increase and would maintain fund balances.
The GEA also wants every teacher pay increases for graduate school work and receive credit for the additional years of on-the-job experience worked since the last contract.