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Article updated: 10/27/2012 12:47 AM

Geneva teachers give their strike notice

By Susan Sarkauskas

The Geneva school teachers union has given the Geneva school district notice of its intent to strike in as few as 10 days.

While the notice is the 10-day intent-to-strike notice required by state law, setting a possible strike date of Nov. 5, a news release issued by the Geneva school district suggests no strike can begin before Nov. 9, which is 14 days after final offers have been posted on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website, per state law. The school board released its "final offer" for a new teacher contract Friday morning.

The Geneva Education Association and the school district announced the move late Friday night, after a day of negotiating.

According to a statement from the district: "The Board remains committed to negotiating an agreement that is good for students, fair to teachers, and fiscally responsible. The Board also remains hopeful that union members will continue to work until an agreement is reached. Given the notice filed today, however, it would be negligent of the District not to plan in advance for the possibility of a strike."

Negotiations are tentatively set to resume Tuesday, Nov. 6, according to the district, but union President Carol Young said in a statement that so far no additional sessions are scheduled.

"We are frustrated with the results of today's meeting," Young said, saying during Friday's session the union "moved dramatically" toward meeting the school board's proposal for a salary freeze in the first year of the contract.

"We do not think it unreasonable to ask the district's teachers to share the sacrifice that every other employee group has made in this district and accept a one-year salary freeze," board President Mark Grosso wrote in a letter attached to the offer.

It proposes no increase in the overall salary schedule, no automatic "step" increases for experience, and no automatic "lane" increases for graduate education attained, in 2012-13. It would pay a $500 stipend to teachers who would have been eligible for a lane increase.

In the second year, the board proposes raising the salary schedule 1.4 percent overall. There still wouldn't be any step increases, but eligible teachers could move up to three lanes.

In the third year, the board proposes no salary schedule increase, restores the step increases and would allow eligible teachers to move one lane.

In the contract that expired Aug. 15, step increases are 2.65 percent; lane increases range from 2.65 percent for work toward a master's degree to 5.37 percent for work toward a doctoral degree.

The board also proposes phasing out the practice of increasing a retiring teacher's salary by 6 percent in the last year.

The board also wants to eliminate paying for the time the union president spends on union duties, saying the union should pick up that cost. Half of her time is allotted to union duties.

The 25-page document can be found on the district's website at www.geneva304.org/documents/Board_Final_Offer_to_GEA.pdf.

It was finalized Oct. 17, filed with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board Oct. 19, and does not include any changes that may have been discussed during an Oct. 23 negotiating session.

Besides specifying the board's position, the board, via Grosso's letter, also criticized the Geneva Education Association for several things.

First, the letter states that while both parties agreed at the onset to keep details mentioned in the talks confidential, "to be quite honest we do not feel that commitment has been reciprocated by the GEA."

It also states that negotiations were postponed for all of May and three weeks of June because the union wanted an Illinois Education Association/National Education Association financial expert to attend.

When they did meet June 27, financial issues were discussed for the first time. According to the school district, the union submitted its offer, the school board president responded orally, then the union requested federal mediation.

Negotiations on other matters in the contract were delayed due to the absence of the union president in July, according to the district's offer.

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