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updated: 10/10/2012 2:42 PM

Geneva teachers union wants help from parents, residents

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  • Geneva teachers turn their picket signs in at the end of a protest Tuesday night before a Geneva school board meeting.

       Geneva teachers turn their picket signs in at the end of a protest Tuesday night before a Geneva school board meeting.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Geneva Education Association is stepping up efforts to get Geneva residents to speak out about getting a new contract for teachers.

It is asking residents to attend Geneva school board meetings, wearing "Viking blue" clothing, and "to support teachers in their quest for a contract that is fair to both the community and the teaching staff," according to its website, gea4students.org. Hundreds of teachers have attended school board meetings since August, wearing bright green "United We Teach" T-shirts. They have worn lapel buttons to work.

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The union is also urging people to put "I Love Geneva Teachers" signs in their front yards, and suggests they obtain a sign from their children's teacher or call the union president.

It also suggests people host an "informational coffee" meeting for friends and neighbors, where teachers "will explain to attendees the most current information." Again, they are asked to arrange this with a Geneva teacher or the union president.

Throughout the months of contract negotiations, school officials and the union president have declined to provide specific details about what each side has proposed, citing a confidentiality agreement both sides signed at the outset. Last week, the union president and two teachers who are union representatives were scheduled to meet with parents at Heartland Elementary School to discuss the situation, but Superintendent Kent Mutchler canceled the meeting, saying it could violate the confidentiality pact.

Negotiations began in February, the contract expired in August and negotiators began working with a federal mediator in September.

The website lists the following as issues:

• Compensation

• Collaboration of teachers and administration

• Teacher plan time

• Guidelines for special education caseload limits

• Professional development

• Procedures for involuntary transfers

• Use of surveillance cameras in the high school

• Supervision guidelines

• Progressive discipline

The union believes that freezing teachers' pay is a "permanent penalty for a temporary problem" of a lagging economy. Typically, teachers receive step increases with each year of service. They are also to receive pay increases in accordance with how many hours of graduate coursework they complete, according to the current contract.

"The school board may need to see that parents and other community members want this contract to be settled quickly so that everyone can move forward," according to the website.

It also suggests writing letters or sending emails to the school board, and writing letters to the editors of newspapers.

The site also points out how much money the Geneva school district has in reserves.

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