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Article updated: 11/2/2012 9:00 PM

D300 contract talks to go on despite 'fruitless' meetings

This week’s bargaining considered ‘not fruitful’

By Larissa Chinwah

Contract talks will continue next week between the Community Unit District 300 school board and the teachers union, LEAD 300, a week after a fruitless mediation session that both sides called frustrating.

Negotiating teams are scheduled to meet Wednesday to take yet another shot at reaching an agreement in a process that has taken more than 10 months. Both sides have said they are working toward a multiyear agreement to replace the one-year contract that expired in June.

The board of education will meet in closed session Monday to discuss its next steps, board spokesman Joe Stevens said.

"We need to review where things are at and discuss whether further movement can happen," Stevens said. "The last meetings were not fruitful. There were some expectations that we would move forward, but both sides were frustrated because there was virtually no movement."

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said there was no movement because the district was not prepared to bargain with the union.

"They said they had no authority without the approval of the whole board," Hanetho said. "It is very frustrating because we were going into bargaining on Monday hoping they would already have the authority to bargain."

Still, neither side has declared an impasse, which is required before teachers could go on strike. In September, 97 percent of union members who voted gave the union permission to file an intent to strike notice if negotiations failed to yield an agreeable contract.

Stevens said teacher salaries and class sizes remain the major hurdles in the negotiations.

"Both teams' presentations are packages, so you have to take all of the package or none of it," Stevens said. "The union has claimed that the number one priority is class sizes, and we have recommended putting a lot of resources into lowering class sizes. But we can't do that and give great salary increases. We have already given a 2 percent step increase at the beginning of the year. They don't see that as an increase to base, and we do."

However, Hanetho said the district has failed to rectify serious problems that have plagued the district in recent years. Those issues include large class sizes, especially at the elementary schools, teacher salaries that have stalled at 2009 levels, and increased insurance costs for teachers.

"There are a lot of issues in the district, and we need to address them," Hanetho said. "We cannot continue to do the one-year contract thing. It's not addressing the major issues with the functionality of our district. Our students deserve a quality education."

Retry: District says it can't address class sizes and give big raises

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