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posted: 5/9/2012 5:05 PM

Teachers union president: 'Progress' in U-46 contract talks

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Leaders of both the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board and the teachers union say progress has been made toward a resolution in the protracted negotiations over a new teacher contract.

Bargaining teams from both sides returned to the negotiating table this month, this time with a federal mediator, after union members decisively turned down a tentative deal in April. Union members voted 1,319 against the three-year agreement and 673 in favor.

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A new agreement will succeed a contract that ended last August. That contract was a one-year extension of the 2007-2010 agreement.

Kathryn Castle, president of the teachers union, said the ETA had surveyed its membership on what it considered the main issues and concerns. The results showed teachers were concerned with the length of the agreement, collaborative time, length of the school day, compensation, and conditions that would allow the school board to reopen the contract.

"We did not go back to the board with a whole new tentative agreement," Castle said. "We got information back on the parts of the contract the members had concerns about and we took those specific areas back to the board. There is not any one concern, but how things work together within the contract."

The board had been responsive to the teachers' feedback, Castle said.

Representatives for the school district would not elaborate on details of the negotiation sessions.

"We did have our second mediation session (Tuesday) and I can tell you that we are making progress," Amy Kerber, vice president of the school board, said in a voice-mail message. "That is all I can tell you right now."

The two sides have scheduled mediation sessions for Friday and next Tuesday, as needed.

"We are always hopeful and will do as much conversing as we can with the district," Castle said. "If we can't come to an agreement that addresses our members' concerns then we will have to process that."

The district is currently negotiating contracts with all six of its unions.

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