Geneva school board President Mark Grosso Tuesday accused the Geneva Education Association of wanting to close schools with a strike, rather than compromise on a new contract.
"It is apparent that, while the board has been diligently working since February to achieve an agreement that is good for students, fair to teachers, and fiscally responsible, the union is intent in having the district's teachers walk off the job in an effort to shut down our schools," he said in a news release.
Grosso criticized the union for the timing of its intent-to-strike notice. He said the notice was given to the Kane County Regional Office of Education and the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board at 4:30 p.m. Friday, more than five hours before it was given to the school board and while the two sides were in the middle of a negotiation session.
Carol Young, the union's president, said in a statement the union had prepared its strike notice before Friday's negotiation session began.
According to Grosso, the board Friday had presented a revised offer to the union; union representatives then met privately, during which time, Grosso said, he presumed they were evaluating the offer and drafting a response. The two sides met together again at 5:30 p.m., but the union did not tender a formal proposal, he said, until 6:45 p.m.
"We were fully engaged at that time with formulating an offer to the board which included a freeze in the first year and which we hoped would be agreed upon by the board, thus making the intent to strike null and void," Young said.
Grosso's Tuesday statement spelled out the board's new offer: It included a salary freeze for all teachers in the first year, except those who qualify for lane movement due to accumulated postgraduate education; a 1.65 percent increase in salary for all teachers in the second year, and the ability to move one lane; and a 2.75 percent increase in the third year for all teachers, and the ability to move one lane.
Young's statement Tuesday said the union is offering a freeze in year one, except for a lane increase; step (seniority) and lane movement was offered for Year 2 (2.65 percent), and a partial year half-step movement for the second half of that year (¼-step or .66 percent). Year 2 also included a ½-percent increase to the base salary. Year 3 was exactly the same as Year 2.
"This three-year offer allowed a freeze for the first year but put teachers on their correct step by the end of the third year," Young said.
Under the old, expired contract, teachers received 2.65 percent automatic step increases, and lane increases of 2.65 percent for work toward a master's degree, and 5.37 percent for work toward a doctorate.
Grosso, in a telephone interview, wouldn't comment beyond his statement, declining to respond to Young's Tuesday statement, saying he hadn't read it. He would not comment about whether the board changed the way it calculated salary costs Friday, which Young's statement accused the board of doing.
"The board of education is deeply concerned that, while the board has made substantial strides in its effort to settle this matter, the union is simply shuffling its last demand between years without any meaningful concessions," Grosso said in the Tuesday statement. "What is particularly troubling is that, while the union was supposedly evaluating the board's latest proposal, it was instead drafting and filing its notice of intent to strike with county and state officials."
Negotiations are due to resume Nov. 6. Grosso said that the full school board needs to be apprised of the union's offer before negotiators can meet again, that it was unable to meet this Monday because it has to give 48 hours' notice to the public of a meeting, and that several school board members, including him, are out of town this week. The board will meet Nov. 5.
"One would think that if they were truly interested in good faith bargaining that timetable could have been moved up considerably," Young said in the Tuesday statement.