There were no signs or flags, no chanting or marching. Teachers in Huntley Unit District 158 showed solidarity with their union leaders by wearing green and congregating outside of the school district's administration building before a scheduled mediation session.
Wednesday was the first meeting between the school district and the Huntley Education Association with the help of a mediator.
"We want to thank you profusely for coming," said Julie McLaughlin, the union co-president. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is our contract, and together we will get this solved."
Huntley Education Association represents about 650 teachers.
Negotiating teams for the school district and the union began talks on a new agreement in July. Both sides reached a tentative agreement in early September, but union members rejected the proposed contract. The two sides are working on a contract to replace a one-year agreement that expired on June 30. Teachers have been working under the conditions of the expired agreement, which included pay freezes.
Union negotiating team member, Beth Knott, a math teacher at Huntley High School, said teachers are uncomfortable with aspects of the contract that includes pay and tuition reimbursement for teachers.
"What we are asking for is what we already have," Knott said. "We took pay freezes and they cut our extra duty pay. We have great, hardworking teachers in the district who deserve to be paid for their work."
Knott said the district wants to change step increases, which a teacher receives for advanced education and degrees.
"We don't feel like we are being greedy here," Knott said. "We are just asking for the status quo."
McLaughlin said a strike is not imminent and that both sides want to reach an agreement without strike action. Teachers in 158 last went on strike in 2008.
"We plan to solve this and hope to work out some of the issues we are still having," McLaughlin said.
About 300 teachers waited outside the administration building for about an hour. Many wore green to represent the HEA.
"We are here to support the members on the negotiating team who have worked all summer long on the negotiations," said Jean Sunderlage, a preschool social worker. "It is all volunteers and they worked through the summer."
School board member Kevin Gentry said the board was unaware of the teachers assembling outside of the administration building.
Gentry declined to comment on the negotiations.