A federal mediator has been asked to help jump-start stalled teacher contract talks in West Chicago Elementary District 33 that have left "significant issues" unresolved, negotiators for both sides said Thursday.
The school board and the Elementary Teachers Association of West Chicago asked for the mediator after they were unable to reach an agreement following more than a year of negotiations, officials said.
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The most recent contract for the district's 284 teachers, a four-year pact, expired Aug. 30, and the negotiating teams last met Sept 17. The request for a mediator came after school board members suggested the idea, and the union agreed.
The district serves roughly 4,000 students at six elementary schools, one middle school and a preschool that meets at two locations.
School board President Christine Scheck said the two sides started talking about the economic portion of the contract around the first of the year. She said they are still "very far apart" on salary and health care issues. She and others in the dispute declined to discuss specifics.
Mary Catherine Kosmach, the union's chief negotiator, agreed the two sides are "very far apart," but said there are "many other issues" beyond pay and benefits.
Scheck said she's hopeful "we can work together" and a mediator can bring "new thinking into the negotiations process."
"It's important to all of us that we use every available resource to help us resolve the remaining issues in a timely manner," she said.
She said both sides "are committed to balancing the contract with the needs of our students and our community."
Kosmach said the union is hoping "some creative ideas can come up" in mediation to spur "both sides to make some movement."
"The teachers and school board have been trying to work out a fair agreement on our own, but we've not made much progress in the last few sessions," she said in a written statement.
Both Scheck and Kosmach said a federal mediator has been assigned to the district but no meetings have been scheduled.