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updated: 9/24/2012 11:22 PM

Geneva teachers lobby board, again, for respect

Geneva teachers say they deserve respect

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Members of the Geneva Education Association again filled a Geneva school board meeting Monday asking for a resolution to a contract stalemate and respect for what they do.

More than 100 attended, wearing lime-green T-shirts with "United We Teach" emblazoned on the back.

Trustee Kelly Nowak, president pro tem, tried to assure them that they are respected and valued by the board. "This board really thinks very highly of our staff; we think highly of everyone in this district," she said at the outset. "Try not to think of it as an 'us' and 'them,' but as a 'we.'"

But high-school choral teacher Roxanne Curtis disagreed, particularly as contract talks drag on.

"It is clearly apparent that Geneva teachers are in a struggle to be seen as professionals worthy of respect," said Curtis, citing criticism teachers have received from members of the public, especially in social media forums. "I will not apologize for saying that I feel District 304 teachers have been dealt a slap in the face."

The teachers' contract expired Aug. 15. The district and union representatives are scheduled to meet again with a federal mediator Sept. 25.

Jenny Scott, a PTO member, pleaded for a raise for teachers. "A zero percent raise in this community sends a message to our teachers that they are expendable," she said.

School officials and the union president will not divulge details of their contract offers, citing a confidentiality agreement they signed. But at a previous school board meeting, a teacher said the district wants a "hard freeze" on salaries, and the union president confirmed the teacher spoke correctly.

Monday the school board also heard from residents who are displeased their property taxes have risen while their property values have declined; a resident who suggested that part of teachers' compensation be tied to performance incentives; and Geneva TaxFACTS co-founder Bob McQuillan, whose group has criticized the spending of the school district.

McQuillan probably didn't win any fans among the teachers Monday night when he analyzed the district's annual salary report for teachers and administrators, published in the online board packet earlier in the day.

The report lists teachers and administrators by name, and details their base salary, bonuses and retirement incentives paid out in the 2011-12 fiscal year, as well as the cost of their benefits. It is required by the state. The base salary includes all pay they received, including stipends for leading extracurricular activities and pay for supervising at before- and after-school events.

"It is clear that the contract issues are all about finances and economics," McQuillan told the board. About 7 percent (50) of the teachers, librarians, social workers and school psychologists made more than $100,000 that year. Ninety-four percent, he said, made more than $50,000.

The top was $129,416, paid to a high school department chairman who also coached sports. The teacher retired in May, after 29 years with the district.

The lowest paid, of full-time staff, was $31,008 for a fourth-grade teacher.

"We are trying to balance, and sometimes on a very thin knife blade, the interests of the community" students, taxpayers and staff, Nowak said.

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